What is Behcet’s Disease?
Behcet’s disease or syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder that causes damage to blood vessels all over the body, leading to mouth sores, genital sores, rashes, and some other symptoms. It is a relapsing and recurring condition — it sometimes gets so bad with or without symptoms, and other times, it tends to disappear.
Causes of Behcet`s Disease
Research is still ongoing to ascertain the causes of Behcet’s disease, however, the general belief is that it is autoimmune — the body attacks some itself out of immune overactivity. Genetic and environmental factors, or even viruses and bacteria could also cause the disease.
Some experts also believe that another cause of Behçet’s Disease is the inappropriate overreaction of the immune system to a pathogen or some other immune threat, causing an intense and harmful inflammation of tissues and veins. This is similar to the auto-immune cause, however, with a twist.
Symptoms of Behcet’s Disease
Symptoms vary among individuals, however, these are common symptoms of Behcet’s disease.
Terribly painful sores in the mouth is a common symptom of Behcet’s disease. These sores may be round or oval, white or yellow in the base, with a red halo surrounding the sore, and they could be between 1-20 millimeters. They would usually last about three weeks before they clear, then they show up again.
Uveitis is an inflammatory disease that mainly affects a part of the eye called the uvea. It causes swelling and eventually destroys eye tissues. This could affect vision or lead to an outright loss of sight. Asides the uvea, uveitis could also affect the retina, lens, and optic nerve.
Uveitis can be anterior or posterior. Anterior uveitis affects the front of the eye, with symptoms such as excessive tear production, pain, blurry vision, pus, and sensitivity to light.
Posterior uveitis affects the back of the eye and retina, with symptoms such as pain, redness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and floaters.
Uveitis is a common symptom of Behcet`s disease, and like mouth sores, it leaves and shows up again after a while.
Red and tender sores would usually appear on the legs as a symptom of Behcet`s disease. They sometimes appear like acne. Some may also experience skin problems such as erythema nodosum, acneiform nodules, pseudofolliculitis, or papulopustular lesions. Such tongue-twisting terms!
Males may have sores on the scrotum, penile shaft, or head of the penis. Women may have them in the vagina, vulva, or cervix. The sores can be excruciating, and they usually leave scars.
There could ulcers in the digestive system also. This comes with symptoms such as vomiting, pain, diarrhea, frequent loss of appetite, and rectal bleeding.
This is another symptom of Behcet`s disease — inflammation in the veins and arteries, which can result in severe complications such as aneurysm, blood clots, and narrowed or blocked vessels.
Budd-chiari is a rare condition in which veins that transport blood from the liver are blocked.
Shortness of breath, aneurysms in the pulmonary artery, and severe coughs are problems associated with the lungs, which in rare cases, people with Behcet`s disease may suffer.
Patients may experience joint pain as a result of Behcet`s disease. This pain is most common in the wrists, ankles, elbows, and knees. In rare cases, there may be pains in the lower part of the back and the buttocks. This may be as a result of pain in the pelvis. The pain stops after a few weeks.
Some people who have Behcet`s disease complain of severe headaches. It may even be as horrifying as brain inflammation.
Central Nervous System Problems
Behcet`s disease also affects the brain. Yes, the brain. The disease could cause an inflammation of the brain and brain stem. This may lead to strokes, confusion, headaches, fever, memory loss, poor balance, and some other health challenges.
Studies show that people who suffer Behcet`s disease can be paranoid, hostile, anxious, and overly sensitive. This psychological side to it applies more to females, as studies show that males are better at coping with the disease.
Immunosuppressives, in some cases, aggravate the psychological symptoms of Behcet`s disease. These symptoms, in the long run, affect patients` wellbeing; it is important to deal with them immediately they occur, and follow up closely with such patients.
How to Diagnose Behcet`s Disease
Just as there is no treatment for Behcet’s disease as you will soon discover, there is actually no single test to diagnose it. So what do doctors do? Here is how to ascertain that a person suffers from Behcet`s disease:
- A positive pathergy test reading within 24-48 hours of reading
- Recurring mouth ulcers that occur at least thrice a year.
- Recurring genital ulcers
- Eye inflammation
- Skin sores
So basically, a close study of the occurrence of Behcet`s disease symptoms is the diagnosis of the disease.
How to Treat Behcet`s Disease
Behcet`s disease has no cure, however, there are therapies that can alleviate its symptoms. Some lifestyle changes in form of rest, exercise, and food choice, and additional recommendations may also be necessary. A team of health professionals may also be available for medical care:
- Rheumatologists (doctors who treat arthritis and other inflammatory disorders)
- Dermatologists (doctors who treat skin disorders)
- Ophthalmologists (doctors who treat eye disorders)
- Gastroenterologists (doctors who treat digestive problems)
- Hematologists (doctors who treat blood problems)
- Gynecologists (doctors who treat women’s reproduction issues)
- Urologists (doctors who treat bladder conditions and men’s reproductive issues)
- Neurologists (doctors who treat nervous system problems)
Some Therapies for Behcet`s Disease
Corticosteroids reduce inflammation. It could be applied topically to treat mouth sores.
Immunosuppressants reduce the excessive activity of the immune system, and this, to some extent, addresses the underlying cause of Behcet`s disease. Some drugs that may suit this therapy are cyclosporine, cyclophosphamide, and azathioprine.
Other Treatments for Behcet`s Disease
Topical ointments that contain corticosteroids are helpful for treating skin sores. Some mouth rinses contain corticosteroids, and they help reduce mouth sore pains, and could hasten their cure.
Colchicine is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat gout. It soothes joint pain too.
Risks Factors of Behcet`s Disease
Behcet`s disease usually affects people in their 20s and 30s. In rare cases, children and much older people are affected.
People in the middle-east have the tendency to have Behcet`s disease more than those in some other locations.
Even though Behcet`s disease can affect any gender, males are more likely to suffer it than males.
Genes too can be a risk factor. Some people have a higher genetic tendency of suffering Behcet`s disease than others.
Behcet`s Disease Facts
- Behcet`s disease is named after Dr. Hulusi Behcet, a Turkish dermatologist.
- Greek ophthalmologist, Benedict Adamantiades, first discussed Behcet`s disease in 1931.
- Dr. Hulusi Behcet gave a more complete clinical description of the disease in 1937.
- Behcet`s disease affects one in every 170,000 persons in the United States.
- It is most common in Turkey, Japan, and the Middle East.
- The disease is not contagious.
- People who suffer Behcet’s disease can live for many years.
Now That You Know…
You have seen the possible causes and symptoms. As the old saying goes, knowledge is light. A number of health conditions would not get as terrible as they do if affected persons had adequate information. Even though Behcet`s disease is rare, it remains real.