Lungs and GVHD

Graft-versus-host disease can target the lungs. Pulmonary functions tests can help catch the problem early before symptoms appear.

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Chronic GVHD sometimes affects the airway passages in the lungs causing:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • coughing

Patients with pulmonary GVHD often do not have symptoms until the disease has progressed. Periodic pulmonary function tests are the best way to catch lung GVHD and begin treatment early, before the symptoms become severe.

If you develop pulmonary GVHD, you doctor may treat you with:

  • steroid inhalers
  • bronchodilators
  • tacrolimus
  • extracorporeal photopheresis
  • montelukast
  • azithromycin

If you notice any shortness of breath or other breathing problems, let your doctor know right away.  The earlier you report symptoms and treatment begins, the better the outcome.

You can help protect your lungs after transplant by:

  • avoiding tobacco products, e-cigarettes and inhaled marijuana
  • getting an annual flu shot 
  • making sure you vaccinations are up-to-date

Watch a Video about Pulmonary GVHD (30 minutes)

(To view this page in Spanish click here.)

Next Page: Liver, Gastrointestinal Tract, and GVHD