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Immunosuppressive drugs diminish immune response, and these pharmaceutical agents are essential for preventing organ rejection after transplantation and must be used lifelong. These drugs also effectively treat auto-immune disorders, allergic diseases, and several other diseases. The drugs are used to prevent the body from showing rejection of the transplanted organ.

Immunosuppressants are classified under the class of drugs that suppress or reduce the strength of the body’s immune system. Some of these make the body less likely to reject a transplanted organ such as a kidney, liver, or heart. These drugs are often referred to as anti-rejection drugs. If your doctor has prescribed an immunosuppressant drug, here’s what you need to know about these drugs. This page will help you know how these drugs work and how they might make you feel. 

Common Immunosuppressants:

Immunosuppressive drugs are used in immunosuppressive therapy and can be divided into various classes according to their mode of action.

The Immunosuppressant drugs that are currently used include:

  • Cyclosporins, Tacrolimus: these drugs inhibit the T-cell activation and prevent the T-cells from attacking the foreign transplanted organ.
  • Corticosteroids (prednisone, dexamethasone): these drugs are very useful in reducing the inflammation that is usually associated with transplant rejection
  • Azathioprine: the drugs disrupt the synthesis of DNA and RNA or cell division

Immune suppressive drugs are divided into two groups based on the time of their use:

  • Induction drugs: these are the drugs that are used to combat rejection at the time of transplant
  • Maintenance drugs: these drugs are for a long-term use

Use of immunosuppressants:

The immunosuppressants are used in transplantation. When a person undergoes a transplant, say a kidney transplant, the body knows that the transplanted kidney is a foreign organ, and the immune system starts attacking the organ to destroy it. Here, immunosuppressant drugs work to reduce the body’s immune system. Hence, the body slowly starts accepting the foreign organ under anti-rejection drugs.

Does everyone need anti-rejection drugs during a transplantation procedure?

The answer is Yes! The only exception is if the kidney comes from an identical twin, but you need to take the prescription immunosuppressive drugs in all other cases. Even a single dose miss can lead to rejection. One should not stop taking the drug until the doctor prescribed the anti-rejection drug says to do so. 

Signs of rejection you shouldn’t overlook:

Even though you are obediently taking the anti-rejection medicines prescribed by your doctor after transplantation, still you have the chance of developing a rejection. While taking anti-rejection medicines, you should watch your body's signs and symptoms. Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Fever over 100 degrees
  • Blood in urine
  • Drop-in urination frequency
  • Tenderness of kidney (when newly transplanted)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Increase in weight

If you find any of the following symptoms, you should call your doctor or the transplantation centre immediately and inform them about your condition.

Recommended dosage:

The recommended dosage of the drug depends upon the condition of the doctor. Immunosuppressant drugs are available on the doctor’s prescription-only and come in different forms such as tablets, capsules, liquid, and injectable forms. Dosage is different in different patients.

It is very necessary to take the immunosuppressive drugs on time as it is very important, and a single missed dose may cause transplantation rejection. 

Missed dose:

If you miss a dose accidentally, then take the drug as soon as possible and inform your doctor. If it is the time of the next dose, then do not attempt to take a double dose.

Side effects of the immunosuppressive drugs:

As the immunosuppressive drug suppresses the immune system, the body becomes more vulnerable to infections. Infection chances are very high during the early phase of transplantation as the dose of anti-rejection drugs, or immunosuppressive drugs are very high. The following side effects should not be ignored:

  • High fever (above 100 degrees)
  • Drainage from surgical scars
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Cold /cough
  • Upset stomach
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver problems

If the drug is causing a problem, ask your doctor; he will make a suitable arrangement by either changing the medicine, dosage or the drug timings.

Important things to know:

  • Undergo regular checkups with a doctor
  • Watch out for infections, common during anti-rejection drug consumption
  • Prevent infection by preventing injury, bruising, or bleeding
  • People taking the immunosuppressive drugs should not come in contact with people taking live viral vaccines like polio as the virus may pass on to them very easily and cause infection due to low immune activity
  • Do not take if you get pregnant while taking this drug, then consult your doctor
  • Breastfeeding is not recommended for the mother who is taking the anti-rejection drugs

Immunosuppressants may cause drug interaction with certain drugs; thus, ask your doctor about the drugs that can interact with your immunosuppressive drugs.

What is immunosuppression?

Immunosuppression is a reduction in the capacity of the immune system to respond effectively to foreign antigens, including surface antigens on tumour cells. It suppresses the body's immune system and its ability to fight infections and other diseases. This can result from a disease that targets the immune system, such as HIV, or from medications used to fight certain conditions, like cancer. The persistent state of immunosuppression may increase the risk of cancer.

What is an immunosuppressant medicine?

Immunosuppressant medicines suppress the immune system or lower the body's normal immune response. The body's immune system helps fight off infections that cause health issues. But sometimes, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues.   Immunosuppressants stop your immune system from damaging healthy cells and tissues. People with organ transplants and stem cell transplants take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent transplant rejections. These drugs are also effective at treating autoimmune disease symptoms. Immunosuppressants are powerful drugs that require close monitoring and, therefore, should strictly be used under the supervision of a doctor.

Is thyroid medicine an immunosuppressant?

Thyroid disease is attributed to an autoimmune process where immunity plays a role. Treatment with immunosuppressants can help reduce an autoimmune condition's impact on the body. A lot of clinical research took place to determine the effects of antithyroid medicine as immunosuppressants. The results of studies have stimulated more work to establish a clear immunosuppressive effect of antithyroid drugs and to clear the mechanism. The mechanism of action of the immunosuppressive effects of antithyroid drugs has remained controversial. The use of immunosuppressants should currently remain confined to controlled studies.

What is immunosuppressant blood treatment?

Immunosuppressants play a role in stem cell or bone marrow transplants. Stem cell transplants treat blood cancers like lymphoma, leukaemia, and multiple myeloma. Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia and bone marrow problems such as aplastic anaemia

How long does immunosuppression last after prednisone?

Prednisone is an immunosuppressant approved to treat many diseases, including immunosuppressive, rheumatic, collagen dermatologic, ophthalmic, respiratory, hematologic, neoplastic, gastrointestinal, acute exacerbations of multiple sclerosis, and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that works on the immune system to help relieve redness, itching, swelling, and allergic reaction. Immune system suppression after steroid intake generally ranges from one week to two months. Consult your doctor to get more accurate details.

Are steroids immunosuppressants?

Yes, steroids are a type of medication called immunosuppressive drugs or immunosuppressants. These are the most useful and effective medications for managing the chronic inflammatory process. These drugs work by various mechanisms at various stages of the immune and inflammatory response and are often accompanied by side effects, which can limit their usefulness. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are one of the most common immunosuppressants that doctors prescribe. These drugs prevent autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, myasthenia gravis, and Crohn's disease and control organ transplant rejections.

What do immunosuppressants do in the body?

Immunosuppressants suppress or reduce the strength of the body's immune system. Some medicines make the body less likely to reject a transplanted organ such as a heart, liver, or kidney. These drugs are often referred to as antirejection drugs. Other immunosuppressants are often used to treat autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Immunosuppressive drugs are effective against autoimmune diseases. In the case of an autoimmune disorder, the immune system attacks the body's tissue. Because immunosuppressive drugs weaken the immune system, they suppress this reaction. This helps to reduce the impact of autoimmune disease on the body.

What are examples of immunosuppressive diseases?

When you have an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes healthy tissue and cells for foreign invaders. The immune system attacks its own body depending on which part of the body is under attack. This immune response can bring different types of autoimmune diseases. A patient may require immunosuppressants if they have one of these autoimmune disorders:

  •         Inflammatory bowel disease, including Chrohn's disease
  •         Lupus
  •         Psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis
  •         Rheumatoid arthritis
  •         Multiple sclerosis
  •         Alopecia areata
  •         Myasthenia gravis
  •         Graves disease

Immunosuppressants keep your immune system in check. These drugs minimize symptoms.

Does radiation cause infertility?

It is very important to discuss with your doctor how a cancer therapy recommended to you may affect your fertility before cancer surgery or beginning treatment. Radiation at or around the ovaries damages them enough to affect their function. Even if the radiation is not aimed at the ovaries, the rays can be absorbed and might still damage the ovaries. When radiation is directed inside the vagina, the ovaries absorb a high dose of radiation. High doses can destroy some or all of the eggs in the ovaries and might cause infertility.

Does testosterone therapy cause infertility?

Despite its positive effects on sexual function, testosterone therapy has a negative effect on fertility. One side effect of testosterone therapy is infertility. Testosterone therapy decreases sperm production by decreasing levels of another hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which plays a crucial role in stimulating sperm production. However, in most cases of infertility caused by testosterone therapy is reversible. It is believed that men who follow this treatment for a shorter period probably recover more quickly. For a few men, the fertility issue is not reversible. It is generally believed that testosterone given by shots and pellets is more likely to cause infertility problems. However, any testosterone supplementation can interfere with the hormonal balance needed for enough production.

What is the best medicine for male infertility?

The best treatment for male fertility depends on the condition's underlying cause. Talk to your doctor to know about the best treatment option. Some men with mild sperm abnormalities have been given clomiphene citrate tablets to improve their sperm quality. If a male has a hormonal deficiency, it may be treatable with medicinal treatments. Male hormone replacement therapy is available to treat such conditions.

Does Chinese medicine work for infertility?

Chinese medicine has long been used for infertility treatment, and it is believed that most cases of infertility treated with Chinese herbs result in restored fertile function. Herbs can be used as a monotherapy or in combination with other techniques such as acupuncture. Emerging data reveals a potential benefit of combining appropriate herbal formulas with gonadotropins and other fertility medications. Tribulus Terrestris, one of the popular Chinese herbs, is helpful for both male and female fertility. In women with PCOS, Tribulus may help normalize the cycle and induce ovulation. According to studies, the essential herb also increases the conception rate.

Can allergy medicine cause infertility?

It is found that antihistamines, antiallergic drugs, have negative long-term effects on male infertility. It is concluded that antihistamine affects the production of male sexual hormones in the testicles. Antihistamines are the most used drugs for reducing these symptoms. According to research studies, antihistamines seem to interfere with the production of sex hormones in the testicles, contributing to poor swimming sperm or a low sperm count. The association between antihistamine use and male fertility is limited, so it isn't easy to generalize these research findings to humans. Further research will also be needed before the mode of action behind this association can be completely understood.

Can blood pressure medicine cause infertility?

Blood pressure medicines, especially calcium channel blockers, can interfere with the ability of sperm to fertilize the egg. Compared to men not taking antihypertensive drugs, these medications had a statistically significant decrease in semen volume and a trend towards a lower sperm count. Especially men taking beta-blocker drugs had a decreased volume of sperms, mobility, and concentration compared to men not taking medications. So, many research studies have linked various hypertensive medications to impaired semen parameters.