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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Behcet's disease


Other Names for this Disease

  • BD
  • Behcet disease
  • Behcet syndrome
  • Behcet's syndrome
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Overview

What is Behcet's disease?

What are the signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease? 

What causes Behcet's disease?

How might Behcet's disease be treated?

What is Behcet's disease?

Behcet's disease is a chronic multisystem inflammatory disorder characterized by ulcers affecting the mouth and genitals, various skin lesions, and abnormalities affecting the eyes.[1][2] Although it can happen at any age, symptoms generally begin when individuals are in their 20s or 30s. The disease is common in Japan, Turkey and Israel, and less common in the United States.[2] The exact cause of Behcet's disease is unknown.[1][2][3]  Treatment is symptomatic and supportive.[2]
Last updated: 12/4/2009

What are the signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease? 

Symptoms of Behcet's disease include recurrent ulcers in the mouth (resembling canker sores) and on the genitals, and eye inflammation (uveitis). The disorder may also cause various types of skin lesions, arthritis, bowel inflammation, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord), and cranial nerve palsies. Behcet's is a multi-system disease; it may involve all organs and affect the central nervous system, causing memory loss and impaired speech, balance, and movement.[1][2] The effects of the disease may include blindness, stroke, swelling of the spinal cord, and intestinal complications.[2]
Last updated: 8/31/2011

What causes Behcet's disease?

The exact cause of Behçet's disease is unknown. Most symptoms of the disease are caused by inflammation of the blood vessels. Inflammation is a characteristic reaction of the body to injury or disease and is marked by four signs: swelling, redness, heat, and pain. Doctors think that an autoimmune reaction may cause the blood vessels to become inflamed, but they do not know what triggers this reaction. Under normal conditions, the immune system protects the body from diseases and infections by killing harmful "foreign" substances, such as germs, that enter the body. In an autoimmune reaction, the immune system mistakenly attacks and harms the body's own tissues.[3]

Behçet's disease is not contagious; it is not spread from one person to another. Researchers think that two factors are important for a person to get Behçet's disease. First, it is believed that abnormalities of the immune system make some people susceptible to the disease. Scientists think that this susceptibility may be inherited; that is, it may be due to one or more specific genes. Second, something in the environment, possibly a bacterium or virus, might trigger or activate the disease in susceptible people.[3]

Last updated: 8/31/2011

How might Behcet's disease be treated?

Although there is no cure for Behçet's disease, people can usually control symptoms with proper medication, rest, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. The goal of treatment is to reduce discomfort and prevent serious complications such as disability from arthritis or blindness. The type of medicine and the length of treatment depend on the person's symptoms and their severity. It is likely that a combination of treatments will be needed to relieve specific symptoms. Patients should tell each of their doctors about all of the medicines they are taking so that the doctors can coordinate treatment.[3]

Topical medicine is applied directly on the sores to relieve pain and discomfort. For example, doctors prescribe rinses, gels, or ointments. Creams are used to treat skin and genital sores. The medicine usually contains corticosteroids (which reduce inflammation), other anti-inflammatory drugs, or an anesthetic, which relieves pain.[3]

Doctors also prescribe medicines taken by mouth to reduce inflammation throughout the body, suppress the overactive immune system, and relieve symptoms. Doctors may prescribe one or more of the medicines listed below to treat the various symptoms of Behçet's disease.[3]

Last updated: 8/31/2011

References
  1. Calamia KT. Behcet's Syndrome. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). 2009; http://www.rarediseases.org/rare-disease-information/rare-diseases/byID/100/viewAbstract. Accessed 8/31/2011.
  2. NINDS Behcet's Disease Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 2007; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/behcet/behcet.htm. Accessed 8/31/2011.
  3. Calamia KT, Jorizzo JL, Mittleman B, Witter J, Rogers III, RS. Behcet's Disease. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). April 2009; http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Behcets_Disease/default.asp. Accessed 8/31/2011.


Other Names for this Disease
  • BD
  • Behcet disease
  • Behcet syndrome
  • Behcet's syndrome
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.