Graft versus host disease is a reaction that occurs when the donor cells (graft) start attacking the recipient’s body. This happens in allogeneic transplants and can affect specific organs and systems such as skin, eyes, liver, lungs, and gut. To prevent GVHD, patients are prescribed immunosuppressive medications by their transplant physician. These medications are taken for at least six months, and in some cases up to one year depending on the patient’s condition and response to the therapy.
Types of Graft versus Host Disease
There are following two types of Graft versus Host disease(GvHD)
Acute GVHD: Acute GVHD occurs usually just after the transplant or within six months after the transplant. Symptoms vary from mild to severe.
Chronic GVHD: Chronic GVHD occurs after six months of allogeneic transplant and remains for a long period.
body systems affected in GvHD:
The following systems are usually affected in GVHD.
Skin Graft versus Host Disease (cutaneous GVHD)
Skin GVHD also called cutaneous GVHD, occurs when the graft cells (donor cells) attack the patient’s skin. However, It can be acute or chronic.
- Skin rash,(whitish and reddish patch
- Small reddish or purplish dots.
- Burning sensation in exposure to sunlight.
- Skin becomes thin or sometimes hardened.
- Darken skin
Consult your transplant physician as soon as you notice symptoms of skin condition, so they can adjust your immunosuppressive treatment according to its severity.
Home Care for Skin GVHD.
As soon as your consultant makes the diagnosis of skin GVHD. Following are some home remedies to keep your skin protected.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Wear loose clothing.
- Wear cotton clothes.
- Keep your skin neat and clean daily.
- Avoid sun exposure it can worsen the burning sensation and also can make you dehydrated.
- Use moisturizing lotions on the affected area, especially at night.
- Avoid dryness it can make the condition worsen.
- Use normal water for bathing not too much cold or too much hot.
- do not dry your skin by rubbing it with a bath towel instead dry it by gently patting it, best to let it dry in the air.
Dealing with Graft versus Host Disease (Gut)
Gut GVHD occurs when the donor cell attacks the cells in the gut including from the mouth to the intestines.
Symptoms of gut GVHD include.
Following are the symptoms of gut GVHD.
- Loose watery diarrhea in huge amounts.
- Decrease appetite.
- Abdominal pain.
- Weight lose.
Seeking Medical Attention:
Whenever you feel the above symptoms, the first thing that should come to your mind is Gut graft versus host disease. As soon as you observe it, consult your transplant consultant as early as possible so, your proper treatment will not get delayed.
Avoid Dehydration in Gut GVHD:
Severe diarrhea leads to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Try to get emergency treatment by receiving intravenous fluids. You might get hospital admission and your doctor may keep you NPO (nothing per oral) to give some rest to your gut and will start your nutrition through a drip called parental nutrition.
When to Start Your Diet?
Whenever your symptoms normalize. Start your diet in the following sequence.
To kickstart your diet, begin with clear liquids such as green tea, water, and certain juices. Be sure to avoid juices that contain high amounts of fiber, as they can exacerbate diarrhea. Stick to this diet for one to two days before transitioning to a full liquid diet.
A full liquid diet contains some shakes like banana shakes, mango shakes, etc. Remain with this diet for at least one to two days. If tolerable then switch to a soft diet.
Start your diet with a soft diet which includes rice, some kinds of puddings, custard yogurt, etc.
When all the above is tolerated come to your normal diet.
Foods to Avoid During Gut GVHD:
Foods that can worsen your GVHD are.
- Food that contains fiber like vegetables, cereals fruits.
- Avoid drinking milk.
- Avoid fatty and oily food.
- Avoid spicy food.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Avoid drinks that are more acidic.
- Avoid citrus fruits.
Liver GVHD: In this type, donor cells start attacking the liver of the recipient.
Symptoms of Liver Graft versus Host Disease
Following are the signs and symptoms of liver GVHD.
Yellowish skin discoloration due to increased bilirubin in the blood. This is called jaundice.
Pain in the right upper quadrant.
Swollen tummy due to enlarged liver.
dark yellowish urine color despite drinking enough water.
Nausea and vomit
The liver function test shows signs of impairment.
Diagnostic tests for liver GVHD:
ultrasound of the abdomen
GVHD is managed by both immunosuppression therapy as well diet control in gut GvHD. Consult with a doctor in the early stage will have better management and good control.