In order to prevent your body rejecting your kidney after transplant, it is necessary for you to take medicines that lessen your immune system’s ability to detect and protect you from infections. These immunosuppressant medicines reduce the chances of the body recognising the donated kidney as foreign, and prevent rejection. However, this means that people receiving transplants are more vulnerable to infections in general. It also why the ‘flu jab is recommended annually for transplant patients.
The immune system is also responsible for identifying and destroying abnormal cells in the body that can lead to cancer. The main source of abnormal cells is damage to the skin caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. With a weakened immune system, it is very important to prevent any changes to the cells of the skin.
It is important to keep out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Do not sunbathe. Avoid exposure to the sun when it is brightest between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This advice applies particularly on skiing holidays where the sun’s rays are reflected back by the snow.
If exposure to direct sunlight cannot be avoided always apply a high factor sun protection cream - at least Factor 20 - ensuring that it is a cream effective against both UVA and UVB rays. These are available in your chemists or from your GP e.g. ‘Uvistat’. Wear a hat, particularly if your hair is thinning, and cover up with loose cool clothing as much as possible. Consider wearing gloves if you are driving in sunny weather.
It is important to check your skin for any changes, and not just those areas that are exposed to the sun e.g. hands, face and the scalp. If you have any moles check them regularly for bleeding or changes in shape and colour. If you are unable to do this at home with a mirror, please ask in clinic for assistance.
Women should check their breasts and have cervical smear tests regularly.
Most changes are not dangerous, however, they may need treatment. It is important to tell your doctor or transplant nurse specialist about any changes that you notice.
Fortunately, most skin problems that transplant patients encounter are relatively harmless and some are naturally attributable to normal ageing processes. However, transplant patients are at increased risk of viral and fungal skin infections that will need treatment.
Warts are a viral infection and in isolation may respond well to wart paints available from the chemist. If more widespread and persistent, they may need to be treated with cryotherapy (freeze treatment) or surgically removed. Please discuss any problems you have with your doctor or nurse to ensure correct treatment or for referral to dermatology clinic.
Fungal infection of the skin or nail beds may respond to topical creams, if not oral medication may required, but needs to be monitored closely as it may interact with other medications.