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Chronic Graft versus Host Disease

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is graft versus host disease (GVHD)?

GVHD can happen after you have a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. In GVHD, cells transplanted from a donor (the graft) attack your body (the host). This most commonly causes damage to your skin, mouth, liver, and eyes. Chronic GVHD usually happens 100 days or more after your transplant, but may happen sooner. It may begin as acute GVHD and become chronic.

What increases my risk for GVHD?

What are the signs and symptoms of chronic GVHD?

Symptoms may be mild to severe. You may have any of the following:

How is GVHD diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. Tell him about your symptoms. You may need blood tests to check for infection, liver function, and get information about your overall health. Biopsies may be taken from your skin, liver, intestines, or mouth. A biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of tissue. You will need medicines to stop donor cells from attacking your body. Medicines may be given as a pill or an injection through an IV. You may also need antibiotics to prevent infection and medicines to manage your symptoms.

How do I care for my skin?

How do I manage chronic diarrhea?

How do I care for my eyes?

How do I care for my mouth?

How do I prevent infection?

What do I need to know about nutrition?

A registered dietitian can help you find an eating plan that is right for you. You may need a special diet.

What do I need to know about physical therapy?

Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. You may need physical therapy if you have tight skin over your joints. You may also need physical therapy if you have joint pain or stiffness.

Call 911 for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.