Behcet's (beh-CHETS) disease, also called Behcet's syndrome, is a rare disorder that causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout your body. The inflammation of Behcet's disease leads to numerous symptoms that may initially seem unrelated. The signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease — which may include mouth sores, eye inflammation, skin rashes and lesions, and genital sores — vary from person to person and may come and go on their own.
The exact cause of Behcet's is unknown, but it may be an autoimmune disorder, which means the body's immune system mistakenly attacks some of its own healthy cells. Both genetic and environmental factors may be responsible for Behcet's disease.
Treatment aims to reduce the signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease and to prevent serious complications, such as blindness.
Behcet's disease symptoms vary from person to person. Behcet's disease may disappear and recur on its own. The signs and symptoms that you may experience depend on which parts of your body are affected by the inflammation of Behcet's disease. Areas commonly affected by Behcet's disease include:
When to see a doctor
Doctors don't know what causes Behcet's disease. However, a combination of genetic and environmental factors likely plays a role. Several genes have been found to be associated with the disease. Some researchers believe a virus or bacterium may trigger Behcet's disease in people who have certain genes that make them susceptible to Behcet's.
Factors that may increase your risk of Behcet's include:
Behcet's disease typically comes and goes in unpredictable cycles. Symptoms may become less severe over time.
Though treatment can't cure Behcet's disease, it often can control signs and symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. For instance, untreated uveitis can lead to decreased vision or even blindness. People with eye signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease should be carefully monitored by an eye doctor because treatment can help prevent this complication. Other complications of Behcet's disease depend on the specific set of signs and symptoms you're experiencing.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor if you have signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease. But, because Behcet's disease is rare, and some of the signs and symptoms are similar to those of other disorders, you may need to see a specialist, such as a doctor who treats arthritis and other rheumatic illnesses (rheumatologist), before getting the diagnosis of Behcet's disease.
If a rheumatologist wasn't involved in your diagnosis, you may be referred to a rheumatologist for the management of Behcet's. Depending on your signs and symptoms, you may also need to see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for eye problems, a gynecologist or a urologist for genital sores, a dermatologist for skin problems, a gastroenterologist for digestive difficulties, or a neurologist for symptoms that involve the brain or central nervous system.
Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your visit. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For Behcet's, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
No tests can determine definitively whether or not you have Behcet's disease. Instead, your doctor relies primarily on your signs and symptoms to diagnose Behcet's disease. Your doctor may conduct blood tests or other laboratory tests to rule out other diseases and conditions.
Criteria have been established for the diagnosis of Behcet's disease, but these aren't always essential for the diagnosis of the disease. Your doctor may use other factors for your diagnosis. The classification criteria require:
In addition, you must have at least two additional signs, such as:
Treatments and drugs
No cure exists for Behcet's disease. If your signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease are mild, your doctor may offer medications to control temporary flares in pain and inflammation. You may not need to take medication between flares. But if your signs and symptoms are more severe, your doctor may advise medications to control the signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease throughout your body, in addition to medications for the temporary flares. Several factors, including your age and sex, may influence the specific treatment your doctor recommends.
Treatments for individual signs and symptoms of Behcet's disease
Systemic treatments for Behcet's disease
Severe cases of Behcet's disease require treatments to control damage from the disease between flares. If you have moderate to severe Behcet's disease, your doctor may prescribe:
Other drugs that have been used to treat Behcet's disease include thalidomide (Thalomid), mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) and chlorambucil (Leukeran).
Coping and support
The unpredictability of Behcet's disease can make it particularly frustrating. Taking good care of yourself may help you better cope with the ups and downs of Behcet's disease. Your approach to caring for yourself will depend on what signs and symptoms you're feeling on a particular day. In general, try to:
Last Updated: 2013-03-08
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