Behçet's Disease

What is Behçet's?

Behçet's disease, also called Behçet's syndrome, is a rare disorder that causes seemingly unrelated symptoms in different parts of the body, including mouth sores, genital sores, eye inflammation, and skin rashes and lesions.

Behçet's is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. In autoimmune disorders, the immune system turns against the body it's designed to protect for unknown reasons. In Behcet’s disease the site of that attack is the blood vessels.

Behçet's Causes

Most of Behçet’s symptoms are caused by inflammation of the blood vessels. The cause of the inflammation is not well understood, but certain genes may make some people more likely to develop the disease. In people who inherit these genes, contact with bacteria or viruses or other factors in the environment may cause the immune system to attack the blood vessels. Behçet’s disease is not contagious.

Behçet's Symptoms

The symptoms of Behçet's are different for different people. The most common symptoms are mouth sores, genital sores, skin sores, inflammation of the eye, and joint pain and swelling.  Some people have only mild symptoms, while others have less common but more serious effects, including inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, blood clots, inflammation of the digestive system and blindness.

Behçet's Diagnosis

Diagnosing Behçet's can take a long time because it shares symptoms with other illnesses, the symptoms usually do not appear at one time, and there is no single test to diagnose it.

Doctors may make a diagnosis of Behçet's when a person has mouth sores at least three times in 12 months as well as two of the following: genital sores that come and go, eye inflammation with vision loss, and the appearance of small red bumps when the skin is pricked.

Behçet's Treatment

The goal of Behçet's treatment is to reduce pain and prevent complications. Doctors may prescribe medicines such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs to reduce the underlying inflammation in the disease. Other treatments may target specific symptoms, such as corticosteroid creams and gels to relieve pain and inflammation of skin and genital lesions; mouth washes to reduce the pain of mouth ulcers, and eyes drops containing corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce eye pain and inflammation.

Behçet's Self Care

In addition to prescribed treatments, people with Behçet's will benefit from rest during outbreaks of lesions or other symptoms and moderate exercise such as swimming or walking, during symptom-free periods.