Eyes and GVHD (Ocular GVHD)

Ocular graft-versus-host disease can cause dryness, irritation, light sensitivity, inflammation or scarring under lids and excess tears.

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Chronic GVHD often affects the eyes. Symptoms can include:

  • dry eyes
  • irritation, redness and pain
  • sensitivity to bright light or wind
  • an inflamed eyelid
  • scarring of the eye surface under the lids
  • excessive tears

The treatment for ocular GVHD eyes depends on the severity of the symptoms. Most cases can be managed with:

  • preservative-free artificial tear drops or ointments (preservatives in some eye drops can be toxic to eye tissues if used more than 3 times per day)
  • steroid drops or ointments
  • cyclosporine eye drops
  • plugging tear ducts so that moisture remains in your eyes
  • adding humidity to your home
  • wearing goggles to limit exposure to the wind

If the problem is more severe and is affecting your vision, your doctor may recommend:

  • eye drops made from your blood serum (autologous serum drops)
  • a bandage contact lens to protect the surface of the eye
  • a special type of contact lens called a scleral lens, offered by BostonSight® and others, that can relieve symptoms and improve vision

If you GVHD is affecting your eyes, be sure to wear sunglasses with UV protection when in the sun to protect your eyes from further damage.

Watch a 40 minute video about your eyes and chronic GVHD.

(To view this page in Spanish click here.)

Next Page: Mouth and GVHD