Behcet’s disease is a rare condition that affects the immune system, causing inflammation in different parts of the body. It can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in young adults. The exact cause of Behcet’s disease is not yet known, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Occurrence of this condition is strongly associated with presence of HLA B51 gene, commonly seen in certain ethnic groups from the Middle East and Japan.
Symptoms of Behcet’s disease vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms include mouth and genital sores, eye inflammation, skin rashes, joint pain and swelling, and gastrointestinal problems. Other symptoms may include fever, fatigue, and headaches.
The mouth sores associated with Behcet’s disease can be painful and can appear as small, shallow ulcers in the mouth or on the tongue. These sores can last for several days and then go away on their own. Genital sores can also occur in both men and women and may cause pain and discomfort during sexual activity. Often herpes is the initial diagnosis in these patients but herpes PCR test comes back negative and there is lack of benefit from anti-viral medications meant for herpes infection.
Eye inflammation, also known as uveitis, is another common symptom of Behcet’s disease. This can cause redness, pain, and sensitivity to light. If left untreated, uveitis can lead to vision loss.
Skin rashes may appear as red, raised bumps or blisters and can be itchy or painful. Joint pain and swelling can occur in any joint in the body, but it is most common in the knees and ankles. Gastrointestinal problems may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
A diagnosis of Behcet’s disease is based on clinical assessment and ruling out other causes of similar symptoms. Pathergy test is a simple clinical test in which a sterile needle is inserted in the skin and said to be positive if a local reaction in the form of a pustule or induration develops there in 1-2 days. A positive pathergy test is supportive of a diagnosis of Behcet’s Disease.
There is no cure for Behcet’s disease, but treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment may include medications such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics. These medications can help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
It is important for people with Behcet’s disease to receive regular eye exams to monitor for any vision changes or complications. They should also see a dentist regularly to manage any mouth sores and prevent dental complications.
Living with Behcet’s disease can be challenging, but there are ways to manage symptoms and maintain a good quality of life. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and reducing stress can all help improve overall health and well-being. It is also important to work closely with healthcare providers to manage symptoms and prevent complications.
In summary, Behcet’s disease is a rare condition that affects the immune system and can cause a range of symptoms. While there is no cure, treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent complications. With proper management and care, people with Behcet’s disease can lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
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Page reviewed by Dr. Manoj Malu (Clinical Director)
Last reviewed date: 16 February 2023
Next review due: 16 February 2026
Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.
References & Further Reading
- Yonsei Med J: Molecular genetics (HLA) of Behçet’s disease
- NHS: Behçet’s disease
- Mayo Clinic: Behcet’s disease – Symptoms and causes
- Cleveland Clinic: Behçets Disease: Symptoms, Treatments, Causes & Diagnosis
- Vasculitis UK: Behcet’s Syndrome
- Behcets UK: What is Behçets?
- National Organization for Rare Disorders: Behçet’s Syndrome
- Versusar Arthritis: Behçet’s syndrome | Causes, symptoms, treatments