Nervous System and Muscles GVHD

Occasionally, graft-versus-host disease can affect the nervous system and muscles, causing pain and weakness.

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Nervous System and GVHD

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. 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
  • massage therapy
  • acupuncture

Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of neuropathy. A consultation with a neurologist can determine the best treatment for you.

If neuropathy is affecting your feet:

  • wash your feet daily with lukewarm water and a fragrance-free soap
  • inspect your feet daily for cuts, bruises, cracking and other changes that may require attention
  • wear sturdy shoes and slippers at all times
  • do not apply direct heat to your feet and legs
  • avoid falls by keeping your living area free of clutter and slippery surfaces
  • consider using hand rails, canes and other assistive devices to help maintain balance

Click here to learn more about managing neuropathy after transplant.

Muscles and GVHD

In rare cases, chronic GVHD may cause muscle weakness. Your doctor will test to see whether other health issues or GVHD is responsible for the problem.

Drugs that suppress the immune system may be used to control muscular GVHD.

(To view this page in Spanish click here.)

Next page:  Infection and GVHD