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What is Behcet's disease?

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Quick Answer

Behcet's disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, states the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. The cause of the disease is unknown. It may be inherited or caused by an external factor, such as a bacteria or virus that causes an abnormal immune response.

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Full Answer

Behcet's disease is not contagious. Symptoms vary in each patient. Common symptoms include mouth, genital and skin sores, swelling of the eye and arthritis and swelling in the joints, states the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases.

Symptoms may also appear in the brain, states Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center. Symptoms include headache, strokes, personality changes and meningitis symptoms. Currently, doctors do not have a test that positively diagnoses the disease. Diagnosis is reached by examining the symptoms and ruling out other causes.

Topical steroids and other medications that do not suppress the immune system are usually prescribed to treat Behcet's disease when it is only attacking the mouth, genitals and skin, according to Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center. If the eyes or central nervous system are being attacked, high doses of prednisone and immunosuppressive drugs, such as cyclophosphamide, may be necessary.

The condition is rare in the United States. It is more commonly seen in areas near the Old Silk Route, ranging from the Far East to the Mediterranean, states Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center.

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