A Review of Ocular Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Optom Vis Sci. 2017 May;94(5):545-555. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001071.


: Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a major complication that occurs following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, which is a potential curative therapy used in a variety of malignant or benign hematological diseases. Graft-versus-host disease primarily occurs in many organs, but most notably in the skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, eyes, mucosa, and musculoskeletal system. Ocular manifestations of GVHD may precede other systemic GVHD findings, and it may be a poor prognosis for mortality. While all parts of the eye may be affected, ocular GVHD occurs primarily in the ocular surface. Dry eye disease or keratoconjunctivitis sicca is the most common presenting manifestation of chronic ocular GVHD. Dry eye disease in ocular GVHD is a multifactorial process, which involves destruction and fibrosis of lacrimal glands and conjunctiva, leading to tear film deficiency and instability. Depending on the severity of ocular involvement and response to treatment, ocular GVHD may cause decreased quality of life. Management of GVHD begins with prevention by understanding risk factors and by implementing prophylactic treatment after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. A multidisciplinary approach to the prevention and treatment of GVHD is important, and there are currently no preventive therapies available for ocular GVHD. Once diagnosed, ocular GVHD treatment strategies target ocular surface lubrication and support, tear film stabilization, inflammation reduction, and surgical intervention. The goal of this review is to define ocular GVHD and its categorical manifestations, as well as to describe the importance of comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, and ophthalmologic treatment and management of ocular GVHD with a multidisciplinary approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dry Eye Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / etiology*
  • Graft vs Host Disease / diagnosis
  • Graft vs Host Disease / etiology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca / diagnosis
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca / etiology*
  • Quality of Life