Behet's disease is a chronic condition that causes canker sores or ulcers in the mouth and on the genitals, and inflammation in parts of the eye. In some people, the disease also results in arthritis (swollen, painful, stiff joints), skin problems, and inflammation of the digestive tract, brain, and spinal cord.
BehÃ§et's disease relatively rare in the United States. It is more common In Middle Eastern and Asian countries and is more likely to affect men than women. BehÃ§et's disease tends to develop in people in their 20's or 30's, but people of all ages can develop this disease.
The exact cause of BehÃ§et's disease is unknown.Â Most symptoms of the disease are caused by inflammation of the blood vessels. Inflammation is a characteristic reaction of the body to injury or disease and is marked by four signs:
It is thought that anÂ autoimmune reactionÂ may cause the blood vessels to become inflamed, but they do not know what triggers this reaction. Under normal conditions, the immune system protects the body from diseases and infections by killing harmful "foreign" substances, such as germs, that enter the body. In an autoimmune reaction, the immune system mistakenly attacks and harms the body's own tissues.
BehÃ§et's disease is not contagious.
What are the symptoms of BehÃ§et's disease?
BehÃ§et's disease affects each person differently. Some people have only mild symptoms, such as canker sores or ulcers in the mouth or on the genitals. Others have more severe signs, such as meningitis, which is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can cause fever, a stiff neck, and headaches.
More severe symptoms usually appear months or years after a person notices the first signs of BehÃ§et's disease. Symptoms can last for a long time or may come and go in a few weeks.Â Typically, symptoms appear, disappear, and then reappear. The times when a person is having symptoms are called flares. Different symptoms may occur with each flare; the problems of the disease often do not occur together. To help the doctor diagnose BehÃ§et's disease and monitor its course, patients may want to keep a record of which symptoms occur and when. Because many conditions mimic BehÃ§et's disease, physicians must observe the lesions (injuries) caused by the disorder in order to make an accurate diagnosis.
The five most common symptoms of BehÃ§et's disease are mouth sores, genital sores, other skin lesions, inflammation of parts of the eye, and arthritis.
In addition to mouth and genital sores, other skin lesions, eye inflammation, and arthritis, BehÃ§et's disease may also cause blood clots, and inflammation in the central nervous system and digestive organs.
How is BehÃ§et's disease diagnosed?
Diagnosing BehÃ§et's disease is very difficult because no specific test confirms it. Less than half of patients initially thought to have BehÃ§et's disease actually have it. When a patient reports symptoms, the doctor must examine the patient and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. Because it may take several months or even years for all the common symptoms to appear, the diagnosis may not be made for a long time. A patient may even visit several different kinds of doctors before the diagnosis is made.
These symptoms are key to a diagnosis of BehÃ§et's disease:
Besides finding these signs, the doctor must rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such asÂ Crohn's diseaseÂ and reactive arthritis. The doctor also may recommend that the patient see an eye specialist to identify possible complications related to eye inflammation. A dermatologist may perform a biopsy of mouth, genital, or skin lesions to help distinguish BehÃ§et's from other disorders.
How is BehÃ§et's disease treated?
Although there is no cure for BehÃ§et's disease, people usually can control symptoms with proper medication, rest, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.Â The goal of treatment is to reduce discomfort and prevent serious complications such as disability from arthritis or blindness. The type of medicine and the length of treatment depend on the person's symptoms and their severity.
It is likely that a combination of treatments will be needed to relieve specific symptoms. Patients should tell each of their doctors about all of the medicines they are taking so that the doctors can coordinate treatment.
Topical medicine is applied directly on the sores to relieve pain and discomfort. For example, doctors prescribe rinses, gels, or ointments. Creams are used to treat skin and genital sores. The medicine usually containsÂ corticosteroidsÂ (which reduce inflammation), other anti-inflammatory drugs, or an anesthetic, which relieves pain.
Doctors also prescribe medicines taken by mouth to reduce inflammation throughout the body, suppress the overactive immune system, and relieve symptoms. Doctors may prescribe one or more of the medicines described below to treat the various symptoms of BehÃ§et's disease.
Doctors may use one or more of the following immunosuppressive drugs depending on the person's specific symptoms.
If these medicines do not reduce the symptoms, doctors may use other drugs such as methotrexate. Methotrexate (Rheumatrex,Trexall), which is also used to treat various kinds of cancer as well as rheumatoid arthritis, can relieve BehÃ§et's symptoms because it suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation throughout the body.
Rest and exercise
Although rest is important during flares, doctors usually recommend moderate exercise, such as swimming or walking, when the symptoms have improved or disappeared. Exercise can help people with BehÃ§et's disease keep their joints strong and flexible.
What is the prognosis for a person with BehÃ§et's disease?
Most people with BehÃ§et's disease can lead productive lives and control symptoms with proper medicine, rest, and exercise. Doctors can use many medicines to relieve pain, treat symptoms, and prevent complications. When treatment is effective, flares usually become less frequent. Many patients eventually enter a period of remission (a disappearance of symptoms). In some people, treatment does not relieve symptoms, and gradually more serious symptoms such as eye disease may occur. Serious symptoms may appear months or years after the first signs of BehÃ§et's disease
Tip of the day >>For hair shine, mash an over ripe banana, combine with 3 drops almond oil. Massage into dry hair, leave for 15 minutes. Shampoo as usual.
To read SAMS newsletter please click here
Internet Specials >>
Tell a friend
To request an appointment fill in your details and we will contact you.