What is Behcet's disease?
Behcet's disease is an autoimmune vascular disease that affects the body's arteries and veins and is characterized by the inflammation and destruction of large and small blood vessels in the body. The inflammation of and eventual damage to the blood vessels typically leads to ulcers and lesions on the body of sufferers and has an overall effect on the body's immune system functions.
Behcet's disease is common in the Middle East, Japan and Asia, and is informally referred to as Silk Road disease because of the 3,000-year-old trade routes throughout the Asian continent. While the disease is a predominantly Middle Eastern illness, Behcet's is diagnosed in many other countries and is sometimes known as Behcet's syndrome. While the exact cause of the disease is unknown, Behcet's typically develops in patients in their 20s and 30s and affects more men than women.
Behcet's Disease Symptoms
Most Behcet's disease symptoms are a result of the nature of autoimmune diseases, so they're similar to Crohn's and celiac disease.
When the body attacks its own tissues, the result is usually swelling in the blood vessels, and particularly in the veins. This kind of vasculitis causes inflammation, redness, heat and pain in certain areas of the body. Most commonly, a person suffering from Behcet's will present with mouth and / or genital sores, inflammation inside the eye (retinitis, iritis or uveitis, all of which can cause blurred vision) and considerable pain. Other symptoms can include blood clots, digestive problems and rheumatoid arthritis. The symptom of rheumatoid arthritis in Behcet's disease is often mistaken for simple arthritis.
Treatment for Behcet's
While there is no cure for Behcet's disease, there are methods to reduce discomfort and prevent secondary symptoms and complications. Because Behcet's is an autoimmune disease, which essentially means that the body's defenses attack its own cells, it is treated with immunosuppressants, which decrease the body's immune response. Often, with immunosuppressant treatment, the sufferer is more likely to develop other health problems because of their weakened immune system.
Symptoms of Behcet's disease are often treated with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. As rheumatoid arthritis and Behcet's disease share many of the same symptoms, a rheumatologist who specializes in arthritis may manage a patient's treatment for mobility problems. Similarly, a gynecologist or urologist may also be a part of the treatment cycle to address the related genital sores. Finally, ophthalmologists and dermatologists may be involved to treat patients for eye inflammation and skin lesions, respectively.
Although there is no cure for Behcet's, sufferers can usually control symptoms with the right medication, diet and lifestyle. While Behcet's is a chronic condition, sufferers may experience long dormant periods where they are virtually symptom free.
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