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What is Behcet's disease?
Behcet's is a autoimmune disease is a rare disease characterized by painful mouth ulcers, genital ulcers, eye problems and skin lesions. The disease is named after the Turkish dermatologist Hulusi Behcet who first described the syndrome in 1924.
What causes Behcet's disease?
The cause of Behcet's disease is an autoimmune disorder. This is where an individual's immune system starts reacting against his or her own tissues. The reason it is possible bacterial or viral infection may have a role in its development.
Ulceration from blood test
Who is at risk of Behcet's disease?
Behcet's disease is most common and more serious in people with
Silk Road bloodlines. Silk Road countries include those in the Mediterranean basin, Middle East and Far East; the incidence is around 1 in 10,000 people. However, Behcet's disease is seen worldwide even in those with other ethnic heritage; in the US the incidence is reported to be 1 in 20,000.
In people with Silk Road ancestry, Behcet's disease is more common in men than in women. However, the trend is reversed with more women than men being affected in people of other ethnic origins. The disease can develop at any age but is most common as people reach 20-30 years.
What are the signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease?
Mouth ulcers are the most common and earliest sign of Behcet's disease. However, before these appear a patient may for a number of years experience a variety of recurrent signs and symptoms that include:
- Sore throats and tonsillitis
- Muscular and joint pain
- Malaise, generalised weakness
- Anorexia, weight loss
- Fluctuations in body temperature
Painful mouth ulcers are usually the first outward sign of Behcet's disease and occur in about 70% of patients. Ulcers can occur anywhere in the mouth including on the tongue and inside the lips and cheeks. They usually last for 1-2 weeks but can remain for as long as 3 weeks.
Other common signs and symptoms indicative of Behcet's disease include:
- Genital ulcers - these ulcers occur less often than mouth ulcers. They are painful and often heal with scarring. They are not genital herpes, which is caused by the herpes virus.
- Eye involvement - uveitis, which is a reddening and swelling of the eye tissue, may occur. The retina may sometimes become involved and if not treated can lead to blindness.
- Skin lesions - painful nodules from erythema nodosum are common. Patients may also have acne-like sores that occur on the arms, legs and trunk.
Less common symptoms include, gastrointestinal problems (e.g. abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting), joint pain and swelling, nervous system problems and blood vessel and circulation problems.