Nervous System and Chronic GVHD

Graft-versus-host disease can affect the nervous system and may cause weakness, lack of coordination and/or pain.

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Symptoms

Sometimes chronic GVHD affects the nervous system. Symptoms may include:

  • numbness or a painful, tingling sensation in your hands and/or feet
  • a shooting pain in your hands and/or feet
  • lack of coordination

These problems, caused by nerve damage, are called neuropathy.

Treatment

Depending on the severity, neuropathy may be treated with:

  • a topical medication such as a lidocaine patch or gel
  • oral medications such as amitriptyline, gabapentin or pregabalin
  • physical and occupational therapy
  • soaking feet in cool water

Take Action!

  • Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of neuropathy. A consultation with a neurologist can help.
  • Wash your feet daily with lukewarm water and fragrance-free soap.
  • Inspect your feet daily for cuts, bruises, cracking or other changes that may require attention.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or slippers at all times.
  • Do not apply direct heat to your feet and legs.
  • Avoid falls:
    • Keep your home free of clutter and slippery surfaces.
    • Consider using devices, such as handrails and canes, to help maintain your balance.

Watch this video about managing neuropathy after transplant. Click here to view a transcript of this video and download the slides. 

(To view this page in Spanish click here.)

Next page:  Infection and GVHD

Updated JAugust 2022

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