What is Behçet's disease?

Behçet’s disease is a rare disorder that damages your blood vessels. This can cause problems in many parts of your body — including your eyes.

This condition is chronic (long-term). But you might have periods when your symptoms go away, called remission.

There’s no cure for Behçet’s disease, but there are treatments that can help you manage it.

What are the symptoms of Behçet’s disease?

About 3 out of 4 people with Behçet’s disease have symptoms that impact their eyes. These symptoms can include blurry vision, pain, or redness.

Many people with Behçet’s disease also have sores on their skin, mouth, or genitals.

Other serious problems from Behçet’s disease include:

  • Blood clots
  • Swelling in the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • Problems with the digestive system, like diarrhea or abdominal pain

Am I at risk for Behçet’s disease?

Anyone can have Behçet’s disease, but some people are more at risk than others. You’re at higher risk if you:

  • Are in your 20s or 30s
  • Are Middle Eastern or Asian

What causes Behçet’s disease?

Most of the symptoms of Behçet’s disease happen because of inflammation in your blood vessels. Inflammation usually happens when your immune system is fighting an infection. Behçet’s disease makes your immune system attack your blood vessels instead. This can cause problems like swelling and pain in many parts of your body.

Experts aren’t sure why this happens. People with Behçet’s disease may have a gene (HLA–B51) that causes a problem in their immune system. Bacteria, viruses, or something else in the environment may also cause this reaction.

If you have Behçet’s disease, you can’t give it to anyone else.

How will my doctor check for Behçet’s disease?

There’s no single test for Behçet’s disease. People are usually diagnosed based on their symptoms. It can be hard for doctors to diagnose because symptoms don’t always happen at the same time. There are also other conditions that have similar symptoms.

Make sure to tell your doctors — including your eye doctor — if you’re having symptoms of Behçet’s disease. Keeping track of your symptoms can help your doctor make the right diagnosis. Write down what your symptoms are and when they happen, and share this information with your doctor.

What's the treatment for Behçet's disease?

There isn’t a cure for Behçet’s disease. But there are treatments that can stop serious problems and lower your pain. These include:

  • Medicines like corticosteroids, which lower inflammation, swelling, and pain
  • Other medicines that help control your immune system
  • Resting when you have symptoms
  • Moderate exercise like walking when you don’t have symptoms

What’s the latest research on Behçet’s disease?

To learn more about Behçet’s disease or to learn more about current research, visit our Rare Diseases page.

Last updated: November 18, 2020