Behcet’s disease is a rare chronic autoimmune disease which can cause damage to blood vessels in the body. Mostly it is the vein that gets affected. There is multisystem involvement in this disease characterized by oral and genital ulcers, skin lesions, ophthalmological lesions, lesions of nerves and gastrointestinal problems.
Usually Behcet’s disease tends to develop in people in their 20’s and 30’s. Most of the symptoms are caused due to inflammation of veins, but it can also involve arteries as well. Researchers believe it is the autoimmune system which causes the blood vessels to get inflamed, however what trigger the immune system to do so is not very well understood.
In each individual the disease can present with different symptoms. However the four most common symptoms are mouth sores, ulcers on genital area, inflammation inside the eye (Uveitis, retinitis, and iritis), and skin lesions.
Causes Of Behcet’s Disease
The exact cause of Behcet’s disease is not known. It is believed to be an autoimmune disease. Many researchers suspect genetic and environmental factors are responsible for triggering the disease condition. There are few who believe that people carry certain gene which makes them susceptible to virus and bacteria to trigger Behcet’s disease.
Behcet’s disease is common in people living in Middle East, Asia, and Japan.The most severe form of disease is mainly seen in people of Turkish and Japanese origin. Since the disease is seen more commonly in countries of old silk trade route, which passes through Middle East, Afghanistan, China and Iran, the disease is also called Silk Road disease.
The disease may develop in adults at any age, but it is common in the age of 20 to 30. Behcet’s disease occurs in men and women. But it is more common in men.
Cigarette which contains harmful chemicals is known to damage the DNA. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of Behcet’s disease.
Symptoms Of Behcet’s Disease
The symptoms of Behcet’s disease may differ in each person. The symptoms may disappear suddenly to recur again later on. The symptoms also depend on the part of the body involved by the inflammation. The most common area involved in this disease includes following:
- Mouth: apthous ulcer in mouth usually heralds the onset of Behcet’s disease. The ulcers usually occur in mouth, gingiva, tongue and on lips. The ulcers are usually painful and shallow. They heal without scarring in 1 to 3 weeks interval.
- Genital ulcers: the ulcers occur on scrotum and penis in males and vulva and vagina in females. These lesions are also painful, but they are deeper and they heal with scarring.
- Eyes: ocular involvement occurs in about three fourth of patients. The disease causes inflammation in the eye. The condition that can result is uveitis, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and inflammation in the retinal arteries. Blurred vision is common eye condition in people with Behcet’s disease. In full clinical fury, the patient may become blind.
- Arthritis and joint pains are generally involved. There is pain and swelling in ankles and knees. The symptoms may last for three weeks and recede on their own.
- Central nervous system: involves headache, hypertension, seizure, and vasculitis.
- Skin: pus filled lesion can occur anywhere on skin.
Behcet’s Disease Treatment
Treatment depends on the location involved by Behcet’s disease.
- The ulcers located on mouth and in genitals are generally treated with local corticosteroid creams. It depends on how severe the disease is. Many times local anesthetic agents are also applied on the lesion.
- Doctors also prescribe mouth rinse and mouth washes which contain corticosteroids. Corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation and irritation.
- For painful ulcers in mouth, applying natural remedy such as a paste of honey and turmeric powder may be helpful in healing the mouth ulcer.
- For eye symptoms various eye drops and systemic steroid tablets are prescribed by the patient.