A CANCER patient was horrified when part of his eyeball began to TEAR OFF – three weeks after a stem cell op to treat his blood cancer.
The unnamed 21-year-old had noticed his eyes were itching for a few weeks.
The man, from Germany, had a stem cell transplant to try and combat his acute myeloid leukaemia.
But three weeks after the op, doctors in Regensburg, Germany, diagnosed him with grade 4 acute graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).
It’s a potentially serious complication of a stem cell transplant.
In this patient’s case, doctors said it affected his skin, gut and liver.
Incredibly, while the membranes on the man’s eyeballs tore as a result of the condition, doctors reassured him his eyesight wasn’t affected.
Dr Regine Braun, who treated the man, wrote in a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine: “His visual acuity was not affected.
“The corneas in both eyes appeared normal.”
Docs removed membrane
Doctors removed the membrane from one of the man’s eyes.
They also diagnosed grade 3 acute ocular GvHD – where the disease specifically affects the eyes.
The patient was prescribed steroids to treat the condition.
Dr Braun said after steroid treatment and after giving the patient treatment to dampen his immune system, he recovered.
But she added, a year later he developed moderate chronic GvHD involving his skin, mouth, eyes, and fascia – connective tissues and membranes in the body.
Immune system attacks
GvHD is a known complication of any transplant op.
In the case of a stem cell transplant, to donated stem cells contain T-cells – a type of white blood cell that are part of the immune system, helping the body fight infection.
T-cells also attack cancer cells, which is why stem cell transplants can help those diagnosed with blood cancers, the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society states.
However, these T-cells can also attack healthy cells in the body, which can cause serious complications – GvHD.
In order to try and prevent GvHD every transplant patient is given drugs to try and help their body accept their donated organ.
There are two types of GvHD, acute and chronic forms.
The acute form tends to affect the skin, liver, the stomach, intestines and colon.
- skin rash
- gastrointestinal disorders
- liver problems
Chronic GvHD is one of the leading causes of death after a transplant and can affect one or multiple organs.
MORE CASE REPORTS
Around 30 to 70 per cent of patients who have stem cell transplants develop the condition.
It can affect the eyes, mouth, skin, nails, scalp and body hair, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, liver, muscles and joints as well as the genitals.
To find out more about the condition visit the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society here.