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Behçet’s Disease

Behçet’s disease is an illness that causes symptoms in various parts of the body. The more common symptoms include sores in the mouth and on the genitals (sex organs). More serious symptoms can include inflammation (swelling, heat, redness, and pain) in the eyes and other parts of the body.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Behçet’s disease differ from one person to the next. Some people have only mild symptoms, such as sores in the mouth, while others have more severe problems, such as vision loss.

The five most common symptoms of Behçet’s disease are:

  • Mouth sores
  • Genital sores
  • Other skin sores
  • Swelling of parts of the eye
  • Arthritis (pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints).

Less common symptoms include:

  • Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord)
  • Blood clots
  • Inflammation in the digestive system (the parts of the body that digest food)
  • Blindness.

Symptoms may appear, disappear, and then reappear. The times when a person is having symptoms are called flares.

Causes

Nearly all of the symptoms of Behçet’s disease are due to an inflammation of the blood vessels. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this inflammation. Some people may have inherited (passed on from parent to child) a problem with the immune system that makes them more likely to develop the disease. For these people, contact with substances in the environment, such as bacteria or viruses, may cause the immune system to attack the blood vessels. Behçet’s disease is not contagious; it is not spread from one person to another.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and prevent serious problems. Common treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids (medication to reduce pain and inflammation)
  • Immunosuppressive drugs (medication that helps control the immune system, reduce inflammation, and prevent disease flares)
  • Rest during flares
  • Moderate exercise, such as swimming or walking, during periods of remission (a disappearance of symptoms).

 

Reference:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, USA.