Graft Versus Host Disease Flashcards, test questions and answers
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What is Graft Versus Host Disease?
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a serious complication of stem cell, bone marrow, and organ transplants. It occurs when donor tissue from the transplant attacks the recipient’s body. GVHD can occur in any type of transplant that involves different types of tissue, such as a skin graft or blood transfusion. GVHD develops when certain white blood cells (T cells) from the donor recognize the recipient’s body as foreign and attack it. The immune system then produces antibodies to try to fight off the attack, but this can cause damage to healthy organs and tissues. This process is called an allograft reaction because it involves the donor’s tissue attacking its new host. Most people who undergo transplants are at risk for GVHD; however, certain factors increase this risk even further. These include receiving a transplant from an identical twin or having a prior history of rejection from another organ or bone marrow transplant. Other factors that may increase your risk include receiving an older or mismatched donor organ, having chemotherapy before your transplant, or living in an area where there are higher numbers of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. The symptoms of GVHD vary depending on which organs are affected and how severe the attack is; however, common signs include rashes on the skin, mouth sores, fever, fatigue, joint pain and swelling , abdominal pain , weight loss , diarrhea , liver problems , breathing difficulty , nausea , vomiting , hair loss. It is important to contact your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms after a transplant procedure in order to receive treatment quickly before complications become more serious. Treatment for GVHD usually includes medications such as steroids or immunosuppressants to suppress the immune system’s response and reduce inflammation caused by T cells attacking healthy organs and tissues. In some cases doctors may also recommend photopheresis a procedure in which UV light destroys T cells that cause GVHD or stem cell transplants to replace damaged tissue with healthy donor stem cells. In more severe cases surgery may be required to remove damaged areas of tissue. The prognosis for GVHD depends on how quickly it is diagnosed and treated; however most patients respond well to treatment when caught early enough. The key thing is recognizing signs early on so that treatment can begin immediately.