Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD)

Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD)

Graft versus host disease (GVHD) is an immune disorder that occurs when cells from a donor’s immune system attack the body of the recipient, the host, in a transplant process. It can occur when a person receives stem cells, such as those taken from a donor, to replace their own damaged or destroyed cells.

GVHD can involve any part of the body, including the skin, eyes, mouth, muscles, joints, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. The severity and symptoms of GVHD depend on the degree of tissue damage and the organs involved in the procedure. GVHD is a potentially serious complication of stem cell and organ transplantation.

This condition is divided into two types: acute GVHD and chronic GVHD.

Symptoms of GVHD

Common symptoms of GVHD include:

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Liver problems

Treatments for GVHD

Treatment for GVHD depends on how severe the person’s symptoms are. Treatment may include:

  • Immunosuppressant medication to decrease inflammation and suppress the immune system.
  • Antibiotics to treat any infection.
  • Vaccines to prevent infections.
  • Transfusions of blood products to replace those lost due to GVHD.
  • Radiation therapy to kill any remaining donor cells.
  • Surgery, if necessary.

Prevention of GVHD

Some measures you can take to help reduce the risk of GVHD include:

  • Discussing the options with your doctor.
  • Getting regular check-ups.
  • Avoiding certain medications and supplements.
  • Staying informed about the transplant and its risks.
  • Making sure you follow your doctor’s instructions on how to care for the transplant site.