Other Names for this Disease
- Behcet disease
- Behcet syndrome
- Behcet's syndrome
What are the signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease?
What causes Behcet's disease?
How might Behcet's disease be treated?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.