by Rick Alan
Behcet’s disease is a rare, chronic disorder involving inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. It is marked by recurrent oral and genital ulcers and eye inflammation.
The cause of Behcet’s disease is unknown. It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction. This occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue by mistake. This autoimmune abnormality may be inherited. An environmental trigger, such as a specific virus or bacterium, may activate the disease in people susceptible to it.
Risk Factors TOP
Although the exact cause of Behcet’s disease is unknown, some groups of people are more likely to develop the condition than others. Factors that may increase your risk of Behcet's include:
Symptoms of Behcet’s disease can vary from mild to very severe. Symptoms tend to appear, heal, and then recur (referred to as a flare) frequently over months or years. The most common symptoms of the disease are:
Other symptoms of the disease may include:
Diagnosing Behcet’s disease is very difficult because:
A doctor may suspect Behcet’s disease if oral sores appear at least three times within a year, and at least two of the following recurring symptoms appear:
If Behcet’s disease is suspected, your doctor will do tests to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms. Also, you may have a pathergy skin test. For this test, your skin is pricked with a small needle. If you have Behcet’s disease, a bump will develop at the site of the skin prick. However, this test is not conclusive. Many people with the disease do not have a reaction to the skin prick.
There is no cure for Behcet’s disease however spontaneous regression may occur. Treatment is aimed at limiting and preventing complications from symptoms. With proper treatment, the disease can usually be managed fairly well. Treatment includes medications, rest, and exercise.
Both topical and oral medications are used.
Topical medications include creams, lotions, and mouth rinses that contain corticosteroids (to cut down on inflammation) and/or anesthetics (to decrease pain). These are applied to sores to reduce inflammation and pain.
Oral medications, include:
Many of the drugs used to treat Behcet’s disease can cause severe side effects. If you are taking these medications your doctor must closely monitor you.
Rest and Exercise
General guidelines include:
There are no guidelines for the prevention of Behcet's disease because the exact cause is unknown.
American Behcet’s Disease Association
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
The Arthritis Society
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National Organization of Rare Disorders, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.rarediseases.org/ .
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov .
Okada AA. Behcet's disease: general concepts and recent advances. Curr Opin Ophthalmol . 2006;17:551-556.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 11/26/2012