Immune Suppression - Immunosuppressant medication monitoring

How is immune suppressant medication monitored?

This varies with the individual medication. Some medicines require you to have regular blood tests. These monitor your blood cells (white cells, red cells and platelets), and check that numbers aren't getting too low. There may also be blood tests to check the medication isn't affecting your liver or kidney function. For other immune-suppressing medication, you may have a regular blood test to see how well it is working. For example, if you take steroids for polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), a blood test is done to check the levels of inflammation in your body. As these levels come down, the dose may be gradually reduced. If the blood tests show the disease is active again, you may need to increase the dose. Similar blood tests are done for monitoring of some of the medicines used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

It may also vary over time. For example, for some medicines, such as methotrexate, you will originally need frequent blood tests every one or two weeks, whereas once you have been on them for a while, if things seem to be stable, this will drop to every three months.

Ask your GP or specialist about the monitoring requirements of your medication.

Are there any other tests?

Other tests may be needed for the condition for which you are having treatment. In some cancers, for example, bone marrow biopsy might be needed to monitor what is happening. In HIV and AIDS, specific blood tests on immune function may be used to monitor what is happening.

Your specialist may also monitor you for any changes in your skin, as immune suppression can make you more susceptible to skin cancers.

Other tests and monitoring requirements will depend on the specific medication. For example, if you take oral steroids, your weight and blood pressure may be monitored, as weight gain and high blood pressure can be side-effects of this type of medication. On steroids, your bone density will also be monitored, as they can cause 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis), and your eyes will be monitored for cataracts.

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Dr Mary Harding
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
29417 (v1)
Last Checked:
05 July 2017
Next Review:
04 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.