According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are over 114,000 people on the national organ transplant waiting list. While the men, women, and children on this list share a common need (i.e., a life-saving organ), the circumstances that brought them to this point can vary greatly from person to person. To help shed light on the types of struggles experienced by these transplant candidates, below are some of the most common conditions that could require an organ transplant.
Causes for Needing a Heart Transplant
* Ventricular Arrhythmia: Better known as an abnormal or irregular heartbeat, a ventricular arrhythmia is a condition that may require a heart transplant when it cannot be controlled by medication, ablation procedures or an implantable defibrillator.
* Coronary Artery Disease: This occurs when fatty deposits inside the arteries have hindered or blocked the flow of blood to the heart.
* Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): This is a genetic condition that is quite common, as it affects one out of every 500 Americans. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when the muscles of the heart become abnormally dense or thick, which hinders the heart’s ability to properly pump blood.
* Congenital Defects: Any type of severe heart defect that is present at birth.
* Heart Failure: A condition in which the heart fails to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Causes for Needing a Kidney Transplant
* Diabetes: When blood glucose levels remain too high for a long period of time, it can cause damage to the kidneys. This can eventually lead to a condition known as diabetic nephropathy, which can require a kidney transplant.
* Glomerulonephritis: This strange-looking word refers to the inflammation of the kidneys due to an abnormal immune response.
* Polycystic Kidney Disease: A genetic kidney disorder that produces multiple cysts in the kidneys, eventually leading to reduced kidney function or complete renal failure.
* High Blood Pressure: One of the main jobs of the kidneys is to keep your blood clean, and they utilize a lot of blood vessels to carry out this task. When those vessels become narrow, hardened or weak through high blood pressure, the kidneys can no longer perform their needed functions.
Causes for Needing a Liver Transplant
* Alcohol Liver Disease: Excessive alcohol use over a prolonged period can cause damage to the liver, necessitating a liver transplant.
* Chronic Viral Hepatitis (B, C, and D): The virus that causes hepatitis can slowly damage the liver over a period of several years, eventually leading to the point of liver inflammation, and then to a type of permanent scarring known as cirrhosis.
* Autoimmune Hepatitis: A malfunction of the immune system that causes damage to liver tissue.
* Hepatic Tumors: These are malignant tumors found in the liver, and are the result of the activity of cancerous cells.
* Acute Liver Failure: This typically comes from a virus, or as the result of ingesting some type of poisonous substance.
* Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): This condition is characterized by fatty deposits accumulating in the liver.
*Biliary Atresia: A disease of the liver and bile ducts that occurs in infants. Symptoms usually appear in infants around two to eight weeks old.
Causes for Needing a Lung Transplant
* Bronchiectasis: A condition that produces abnormally dilated airways, which leads to frequent infections in the lungs.
* Cystic Fibrosis: This is a genetic disease that causes the natural mucus in the lungs to become abnormally thick, which leads to the blockage of airways as well as increased bacterial infections in the lungs.
* Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): A condition that affects a person’s ability to exhale air completely out of their lungs. Smoking is one of the most common causes of COPD.
* Pulmonary Hypertension: High blood pressure in the lungs that hinders the free flow of oxygen.
* Pulmonary Fibrosis: This condition occurs when abnormal scar tissue begins to form in the lungs, making them stiffer and thicker.
* Emphysema: The deterioration or loss of lung tissue, or the formation of cysts in the lungs. Emphysema is most often caused by smoking, but it can be developed via a genetic disorder as well.
Causes for Needing a Pancreas Transplant
* Type One Diabetes: Most commonly done as a combination transplant along with a kidney. The typical person receiving this transplant is someone who has type one diabetes that turns out to be difficult to control with insulin either via injection or with an insulin pump. When these therapies fail, a pancreas transplant is a good option.
Causes for Needing a Small Intestine Transplant
* Short Bowel / Gut Syndrome: is a malabsorption disorder caused by a lack of functional small intestine. Most cases are due to the surgical removal of a large portion of the small intestine.
*Intestinal Atresia: Nutrition is absorbed by the intestines similar to the way that water is absorbed by a sponge. But some children are born with defects that prevent their intestines from “soaking up” all the nutrition their growing bodies need. This most often happens in the small intestine (small bowel), and very occasionally in the large intestine.
*Necrotizing Enterocolitis: Necrotizing enterocolitis is (NEC) is a serious intestinal illness in babies that results in the death of intestinal tissues.
The Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) reports that 22 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. This harrowing statistic underscores the need for more people to become registered organ, eye, and tissue donors. As you can tell from the list above, there’s a lot that can go wrong with the human body, but fortunately, organ donation can provide a second chance for many people who desperately need it. You never know how your selfless decision to become an organ donor can positively impact not only the patient on the waiting list but their family members and loved ones as well. To learn more about registering to become an organ donor, please visit this link.