Behcet’s disease or Behcet’s syndrome is a rare condition that causes inflammation in blood vessels in the body. Behcet’s disease may be defined as an autoimmune disease meaning that the immune system attacks some of its healthy cells.
The inflammation caused by the disorder leads to many symptoms such as eye inflammation, skin rashes, mouth and genital sores and lesions but the symptoms may vary from person to person.
The exact cause of Behcet’s disease is unclear but genetic and environmental factors may influence its development. The treatment for Behcet’s disease aims to reduce the symptoms and prevent further complications.
The symptoms of Behcet’s disease vary relative to which body parts are affected by the inflammation:
- Mouth: The most common symptom of Behcet’s disease are mouth sores, which start as round lesions in the mouth that rapidly turn into painful ulcers.
- Skin: Skin lesions such as acne-like sores or red, raised and tender nodules can appear as a sign of Behcet’s disease.
- Genitals: Genital sores can develop on the scrotum or the vulva as a sign of Behcet’s disease. The sores are painful and look like red ulcerated lesions, which may leave scars.
- Eyes: Another symptom can be inflammation in the eye called uveitis. Uveitis causes redness, pain and blurred vision in one or both eyes. Inflammation in the blood vessels of the retina can be a serious complication.
- Vascular system: The disease causes inflammation in veins and arteries that leads to redness, pain and swelling of the limbs as a result of a blood clot. Inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) may be the cause of many of the symptoms of Behcet’s disease. Inflammation of large arteries can cause complications such as aneurysms and blockage of the vessel.
- Joints: Joint swelling and pain in the knees, ankles, wrists and elbows can occur as a sign of the disorder.
- Digestive system: Abdominal pain, diarrhea and bleeding are all symptoms of Behcet’s disease that affects the digestive system.
- Brain: The disease can also affect the brain by causing an inflammation to the brain and nervous system that may lead to headache, fever, poor balance, disorientation or stroke.
The exact cause of Behcet’s disease is undetermined. However, a combination of genetic and environmental factors can trigger it. Experts believe that a virus or bacterium can trigger the disease in people who have certain genes that make them susceptible to Behcet’s disease.
Risk factors for Behcet’s disease include:
- Age: The disease mostly affects people between the age of 20 and 30.
- Gender: Behcet’s disease is usually more severe in men.
- Location: People with Turkish, Japanese or Chinese descent are more likely to develop the disease.
- Genes: Certain genes have been associated with a greater risk of Behcet’s.
The complications of Behcet’s disease depend on the specific symptoms present at the time. For instance, untreated uveitis can lead to poor vision or blindness. Therefore, signs and symptoms should be treated and monitored to prevent further complications.