GRAFT VS HOST
WHAT IS GRAFT VS HOST DISEASE?
Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) is a complication resulting from a stem cell transplantation as a cure for a blood disorder. When one person receives stem cells from a donor, the donor tissue's T cells may view the patient's healthy cells as foreign. This causes the implanted donor tissue (graft) to attack the patient's tissue (host), causing an immune response.
To minimize the risk of this, sometimes the T cells of the donor tissue can be removed from the graft. Other times, the patient receiving a stem cell transplant is put on immunosuppressive medication to tell the donor T cells not to attack the host cells.
Graft versus host disease may cause problems with the eyes. About 40 to 90% of patients with chronic GVHD will develop ocular symptoms.
The immune response may be so strong that the immune cells cause damage to the normal tissue of the patient. This may include the lacrimal gland (which creates tears), conjunctiva (white portion of the eye which creates mucous, and inside the lids), and ocular surface (front of the eye). This reaction may cause scarring to the front of the eye.
Ocular symptoms of GVHD may include dry eye, chronic red eyes, eye pain, light sensitivity, feeling that something is in the eye, and blurry vision.
HOW DO I TREAT EYE PROBLEMS FROM GVHD?
The first step to getting treatment for eye problems due to Graft versus Host Disease is to schedule a comprehensive eye examination. This will take a thorough look at the health of not only the front of the eye, but the back of the eye. We will detail where you have issues, scarring, dryness, etc and come up with a plan.
For dryness, it is important to have a plan specifically tailored to you. Not all dry eye is the same and each artificial tear and treatment has a specific use. For example, because GVHD patients have damage due to a strong immune (inflammatory) response, they may do very well with an eye drop that decreases inflammation. A person who has dry eye from looking at a computer screen all day may not benefit from this treatment. Everyone is different.
After having a detailed medical plan, we can discuss how specialty contact lenses, specifically scleral lenses, may help you achieve greater relief and sharper vision.
CAN SPECIALTY CONTACT LENSES HELP ME?
If you have Graft versus Host disease and are suffering from dry eyes, blurry vision, or scarring, you would likely benefit greatly from scleral lenses.
When traditional dry eye treatments have failed, scleral lenses can be an amazing management option for severe dry eye. There is a reservoir of preservative-free sterile saline between your cornea and the lens, which stays all day long, providing constant lubrication to the eye.
The layer of tears in between the lens and your eye also correct for many irregularities that arise from having dryness and scarring on the surface of the eye, as in GVHD.
These lenses, in combination with excellent dry eye management can provide wonderful relief to patients who have been suffering from severe dry eye.