While there are some side effects associated with stem cell therapy, the level of pain depends on the Stem cell procedure type. Some procedures are more painful compared to others. Bone marrow transplant is an exceptionally painful stem cell procedure. In this procedure, an infertility specialist in Mumbai will extract someone’s marrow from a certain region in your body(usually the hip bone) and transplant it to your testes.

You may experience certain problems after the transplant or from having received radiation or chemotherapy before the transplant. An infertility specialist in Mumbai can help you cope with the side effects. Some of the pain can be prevented while others can be treated to make you feel better. It is important that you reach out to your doctor if you’re facing any such issues. Let us take a look at the various side effects of stem cell therapy.

Throat and mouth pain

Mucositis is a condition where the lining of the gastrointestinal tract or the mouth suffers from inflammation. The common term for this condition is mouth sores. This is a common side effect of the intensive therapy preceding stem cell therapy. Most of the patients who go through a stem cell transplantation procedure will suffer from this condition. In fact, mucositis remains the most significant side effect of the treatment.

In earlier days, the only ways to manage mucositis was cryotherapy, decent oral care, and a drug called Salagen that stimulates the flow of saliva. Today, medical professionals use growth factors for preventing and treating mouth sores. Your body produces several natural growth factors that promote cell growth.

Kepivance is a laboratory-made artificial growth factor that mimics the natural compounds produced by the body. It stimulates the epithelial cells forming the lining of the GI tract and the mouth, thus reducing mucositis. Kepivance has certain properties that allow it to protect the epithelial from the negative effects of stem cell therapy.

Infections

You may suffer from serious infections during the first 6 weeks following your stem cell therapy. This continues until the new stem cells start creating white blood cells. Bacterial infections are extremely common, although viral infections can occur as well, due to the absence of white blood cells. White blood cells help fight infections and due to their low count, even infections causing mild symptoms can be dangerous for you.

For this reason, the best IVF doctor in Mumbai may give you antibiotics to prevent the infections until the blood count is restored. For example, pneumocystis pneumonia is a common infection that you might get during this period. Although it causes no serious harm to individuals with healthy immune systems, it may cause breathing problems, cough, and fever in patients who have undergone stem cell therapy. Antibiotics can help you survive this ordeal.

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Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD)

In allogeneic stem cell transplants, Graft-versus-host disease is pretty common. This occurs when the donor immune cells treat your body as foreign and start attacking the liver, the gastrointestinal tract, and the skin. Due to conditioning treatment prior to stem cell transplant, the immune system of the recipient is somewhat compromised and loses the ability to fight back. Thus, the new stem cells constitute the majority of the immune system post-transplant.

The symptoms of GVHD may include:

Mouth

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Sensitivity to carbonated drinks, cold, hot, and spicy foods
  • Tooth decay and gum disease

Skin

  •  Itchy, tight, and dry skin
  • Change in skin colour
  • Tightening and thickening of the skin that restricts joint movement
  • Intolerance to changes in temperature

Body Hair and Scalp

  • Hair loss
  • Body hair loss
  • Premature greying of hair

Nails

  • Nail loss
  • Changes in the texture of the nails
  • Hard and brittle nails

GI tract

  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss

Liver

  • Unexpected test results for liver function
  • Jaundice
  • Swelling of the abdomen

Joints and Muscles

  • Stiffness of the joints making it difficult to extend your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers
  • Muscle cramps and fatigue

Genitalia

  • Male

    • Irritation in the genitalia
    • Scarring and itching in the scrotum and penis
    • Scarring and narrowing of the urethra
  • Female

    • Painful intercourse
    • Vagina walls narrowing
    • Vaginal scarring and ulcerations
    • Vaginal pain, itching, and dryness

Usually, patients exhibiting mild GVHD symptoms can benefit from topical therapies if the symptoms are limited to a single site or organ. Topical steroid ointments are useful for treating skin GVHD while immunosuppressive eye drops can treat ocular GVHD. Systematic treatment may be necessary for patients with severe symptoms.

Hepatic Veno-occlusive disease (VOD)

This is a serious condition that leads to the blockage of blood vessels and tiny veins in the liver. It is extremely rare and can only be seen in allogeneic transplants. Those who take the drugs melphalan or busulfan during the conditioning treatment are at a greater risk of getting this disease.

This disease is more common in elderly people with existing liver problems. It begins with weight gain leading to the bloating of the belly, pain in the liver, dark urine, and yellowing of the eyes and the skin.

Graft Failure

This occurs when the recipient body refuses to accept the transplanted stem cells. So the stem cells cannot travel to the bone marrow and reproduce as usual. This is common in stem cells with removed T-cells and in cases where the donor and the recipients are not compatible. It may also occur in patients who receive a small number of stem cells. However, it is a very rare condition.

Lung problems and pneumonitis

Pneumonitis is the swelling of lung tissue commonly seen in the first 100 days following the transplant. But the lung problems often appear even 2 years after the transplant. While pneumonia is an infectious disease, pneumonitis occurs due to chemo, GVHD, or radiation. Damage to the interstitial spaces between the cells of the lungs can lead to pneumonitis.

Pneumonitis can be a serious condition, especially if the conditioning treatment before the transplant involved full-body radiation. For this reason, the doctor might recommend a chest x-ray that will reveal whether you have pneumonitis. If you suffer from GVHD, some doctors might ask for breathing tests every other month. If you face any breathing troubles, you should report it to the transplant team at the fertility clinic in Mumbai.

So, as we can see, there are some side effects associated with stem cell therapy that may lead to discomfort and pain. But they are usually treatable will medication and therapy. By getting your treatment done from a reputed treatment center, you can reduce the chances of these effects occurring.

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Dr. Jay Mehta Fertility and IVF Specialist In Mumbai

Dr. Jay Mehta

Fertility and IVF Specialist

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Dr. Jay Mehta is the Scientific Director of Shree IVF Clinic. He is a well-known Fertility and IVF Specialist and also among few doctors in the country who specializes in Embryology and Andrology.

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