What is it?

Graft-versus-Host Disease (GvHD) is an immunological condition that occurs in patients usually after an allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. In this condition, the donated bone marrow, or peripheral blood stem cells, view the recipient’s body as foreign and attack it. The chance of developing GVHD is around 30%-40% when the donor and recipient are related and around 60%-80% when the donor and recipient are not related.There are two forms of this disease, acute and chronic. The acute form usually occurs within the first few 100 days post-transplant and represents rash, liver problems, nausea and diarrhea. The chronic form happens later and can affect many body systems. GVHD may be life threatening. Risk factors include older age of either the donor or the recipient, different genders of the donor and recipient, having a tissue donor that has been pregnant.

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Signs & symptoms

Acute graft-versus-host disease symptoms may include an itchy, red and sometimes painful rash, hepatitis, which sometimes leads to jaundice, enteritis leading to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, cramping, abdominal pain or blood in stool. Chronic graft-versus-host disease symptoms may include dry eyes or mouth, vision changes, mouth ulcers, difficulty swallowing, hair loss,sensitivity to spicy foods, mouth pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, muscle pain, joint pain, weakness, fatigue, skin rash, skin discoloration, vaginal dryness, loss of appetite, weight loss, jaundice and abdominal pain.


Diagnosis of graft-versus-host disease can start with physical examination to look for signs such as a rash or jaundice. A tissue biopsy is a common test for GVHD diagnosis, blood tests including liver functions.


Treatment for GVHD includes immunosuppressant medications- corticosteroid and other immunosuppressant drugs such as infliximab and daclizumab. The main side effects of these medications is an increased risk for infections, including fungal infection. Another treatment available is called extracorporeal photopheresis, a procedure that removes blood via a machine and isolates white blood cells. Then, these white cells are exposed to a medication called 8-methoxypsoralen followed by UVA irradiation before returning the blood to the patient

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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