Behcet’s Disease

What is Behcet’s Disease?

Behcet’s disease is also called Behcet’s syndrome. It is an incurable but treatable disease of the blood vessels. It is very rare but not contagious. Although the cause is unknown, women and people of Turkish decent are most prone to developing it. People usually do not show symptoms until their 20’s or 30’s but it sometimes shows up in childhood. In the worse cases of Behcet’s disease, people go blind, experience bleeding in the lungs or develop a deadly infection from constantly open sores. People with Behcet’s disease often lead long, full lives when they get treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Behcet’s Disease?

Symptoms may be different for each person.

Symptoms include

Common symptoms are sores on the mouth, tongue, genitals and skin. Sores often leave permanent scars. Blood vessels in the eyes are so inflamed that they cause blurred vision, pain and redness. Some people suffer from gastrointestinal lesions which cause pain, diarrhea and blood in the stool. Joints often swell or become painful and may be confused with arthritis. If lesions develop in the brain, the patient will have trouble with coordination, balance, chronic headaches, confusion and stroke.

Behcet’s Disease Causes

The causes for Behcet’s disease are unknown. There is a high likelihood that it could be an autoimmune disorder, which is where the immune system attacks its healthy cells. Researchers believe that it is an autoinflammatory condition specifically, where the blood vessels are attacked by the immune system.

Both environmental and genetic factors likely play a part. A lot of genes are correlated with the diagnosis and particular genes are more associated with a high risk of developing Behcet’s disease; there are certain ethnic groups – who share genes – for which the condition is more common. Mediterranean, Asian and Middle Eastern people are more likely to develop Behcet’s disease.

In terms of environment, location affects the chance that Behcet’s will develop; high risk areas are China, Japan, Iran, Turkey and Israel. When outside their native country, the risks for people from the mentioned ethnic groups are lower, so, while Behcet’s is not particularly well understood, it is clear both nature and nurture play a role in its development.

People with certain risk factors are especially susceptible to the chronic condition. Men and women between ages 20 and 39 are commonly affected because of their age, but, occasionally, children and older adults can develop the disease.The diagnosis is typically more intense for men.

How is Behcet’s Disease Treated?

Behcet’s disease often responds well to treatment of individual symptoms. Occasionally the disease will disappear from a patient. Just why this happens to a few patients and not all of them is unknown. Patients may need to see many medical specialists to address all of their issues. Sores are treated with a variety of creams or gels containing tetracycline, dapsone and triamcinolone. Mouth sores may be treated with medicated mouthwashes. Patients with eye problems may need eye drops containing corticosteroids, dexamethasone or betamethasone to help with the inflammation and pain. Arthritis medication is used for joint pain and swelling.

WARNING: People with Behcet’s disease are prone to the potentially deadly deep vein thrombosis.

Behcet’s Disease Prevention

There is no known prevention for Behect’s disease because the actual cause is unknown. Immunosuppressive therapy has proven effective in counteracting the disease, however.

Fortunately, the ailments involved with the disease can be prevented individually. Hepatitis C may be a factor of the disease and can be prevented with interferon alpha. Genital ulcers can be stopped with colchicine, mucocutaneous lesions can be improved with rebamipide and dapsone, and thalidomide can help to prevent the negative effects of the disease.

Pain can be prevented with anti-inflammatory medicines and painkillers. Finally, by including a team of specialists in putting together the care plan, the chances of preventing the disease from creating a lot of damage are much higher.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 15, 2017