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Behcet’s Disease

Behçet's disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder causing canker sores in the mouth or genitals, eye inflammation and arthritis. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues.

Behcet’s disease is one of many forms of vasculitis. With vasculitis, blood vessels become inflamed, cutting off blood supply and potentially causing serious consequences.

Behcet’s disease: what you should know

  • There are key symptoms that lead to proper diagnosis, including the following:
    • Having mouth sores at least three times in 12 months plus
    • Any two of the following:
      • Recurring genital sores
      • Eye inflammation with loss of vision
      • Skin rashes or acne-like sores
      • A positive skin prick test, called pathergy
  • It is not known what causes Behcet’s disease, although it may be an autoimmune disorder with genetic and environmental factors.
  • In more serious cases, Behcet’s disease causes other symptoms:
    • Blindness
    • Swelling in arms or legs from blood clots
    • Abdominal pain, diarrhea or intestinal bleeding
    • Headache, fever, poor balance or stroke 

How can I get help for Behcet’s disease?

Diagnosis. Experts in the Division of Rheumatology aim to make an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible. Sometimes Behcet’s symptoms look like other diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, and emerge over years. This makes diagnosis tricky.

Help your doctors by keeping a record of your symptoms and when they occur.

Specialists. Behcet’s disease affects several organ systems. Other specialists may be consulted during your diagnosis, including some of the following:

  • Ophthalmologists to identify complications from eye inflammation
  • Dermatologists to perform a biopsy of mouth or skin lesions
  • Gynecologists to examine women’s genital sores
  • Urologists to examine men’s genital sores
  • Gastroenterologists to identify digestive problems

Care for Behcet’s disease at Rush

Behcet’s disease is treatable but not curable. Symptoms may disappear (go into remission) and come back (flare).

Specialists in the Division of Rheumatology will develop a personalized plan to reduce your pain, and prevent flares and complications. With effective treatment, flares typically become less frequent.

Medications. Your treatment at Rush might include the following:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Immunosuppressive to control the immune system, reduce inflammation and prevent flares

Lifestyle changes. In addition to treatment, your doctor may recommend that you do the following on your own:

  • Rest during flares
  • Moderate exercise, such as swimming or walking, during periods of remission

It is also important that you are monitored for any infections and medication side effects. At Rush your care team will conduct regular blood, urine and imaging tests.

 Why choose Rush for Behcet’s disease care

  • Rush offers an onsite laboratory, infusion therapies and a variety of other services. This makes your care easily coordinated and more convenient for you.
  • The medical team in the Division of Rheumatology evaluates, diagnoses and treats patients with Behcet’s disease using a full range of medical treatment options.

Departments and programs that treat this condition