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Behcet's Disease

Behcet's disease is a rare and chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect various parts of the body, including the eyes, mouth, skin, joints, blood vessels, and gastrointestinal system. It is named after the Turkish dermatologist Hulusi Behcet, who first described the condition in 1937.

The exact cause of Behcet's disease is not known, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in the development of the disease.

Symptoms of Behcet's disease can vary depending on the affected organs, but commonly include recurrent oral and genital ulcers, eye inflammation, skin lesions, joint pain, and gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. 

There is currently no cure for Behcet's disease, but treatment aims to manage symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment may include medications such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics, as well as lifestyle changes such as avoiding triggers that can worsen symptoms.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important for managing Behcet's disease and preventing long-term complications. A team of healthcare professionals, including rheumatologists, dermatologists, and ophthalmologists, may be involved in the care of patients with Behcet's disease.

Symptoms 

Behcet's disease is a complex and multi-system disorder that can impact various parts of the body, often leading to recurrent and chronic symptoms that can significantly impact a person's quality of life.

The most common and recognizable symptoms of Behcet's disease are mouth and genital ulcers. These ulcers can be painful and make it difficult to eat or speak. They are usually round or oval, with a white or yellowish center and a red border. These ulcers can appear anywhere in the mouth or genital area and can come and go over time.

Skin problems are also common in Behcet's disease. Patients may experience painful nodules, red bumps or sores, and acne-like eruptions. Skin lesions may be present from the onset of the disease and can often be a source of distress for patients, especially if they are visible.

Joint pain and swelling are common symptoms of Behcet's disease. The joints most often affected are the ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists. Joint inflammation can cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility but usually does not cause permanent damage.

Eye inflammation is another common feature of Behcet's disease. It can cause redness, pain, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. In severe cases, it can lead to permanent vision loss.

Inflammation of the veins (known as vasculitis) is also common in Behcet's disease, affecting both deep and superficial veins. This inflammation can lead to the formation of blood clots, which can be life-threatening if they travel to vital organs such as the lungs or brain.

In addition to these symptoms, Behcet's disease can also affect the gastrointestinal system, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. The disease can also affect the central nervous system, leading to headaches, meningitis, and strokes.

Diagnosis 

The symptoms of Behcet's disease do not always manifest at the same time, which is why diagnosis is difficult. Eye inflammation, skin rashes, and mouth sores can all be signs of various serious health issues.

A single test is not available to doctors for the diagnosis of Behcet's disease. If you experience mouth sores three times in a year with any two of the following symptoms, your doctor may suspect that you have Behcet's disease:

  • Skin sores 
  • infection of the eye that impairs vision
  • Genital sores that occurs at times 

Treatment 

Although there is currently no cure for Behçet's disease, various medications can be used to manage symptoms. Corticosteroids like prednisone can be used to reduce immunological and inflammatory responses. Colchicine (Colcrys®) is another drug that helps relieve joint pain, genital, and mouth sores. Immunosuppressive medications such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®, Neosar®), methotrexate (Trexall®, Rasuvo®), azathioprine (Imuran®, Azasan®), and cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®) are also used. Biologics like anti-TNF (Tumor Necrosis factor), infliximab (Remicade®), etanercept (Enbrel®), and Tocilizumab (Actemra®) may be employed in more severe cases, but they can increase your susceptibility to other infections as they are immunosuppressive medications. Apremilast (Otezla®), an oral medication licensed for treating mouth ulcers, can also be used. Before prescribing medications, doctors may suggest using eye drops, mouthwashes, and skin ointments, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Conclusion

Behçet's disease is not always fatal, but it can result in a variety of physical and medical issues that are painful almost everywhere on the body. But it is extremely feasible to successfully manage and live with this illness, particularly if you can find ways to consistently exercise, rest, and share your experiences with others who also have this unique illness.

Medanta Medical Team
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