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Behçet's Disease

Discover the hidden truths about Behçet's Disease, an enigmatic and rare condition that perplexes doctors and impacts patients' lives in ways you never imagined.

USMLE Guide: Behçet's Disease


  • behçet's disease is a chronic, relapsing systemic vasculitis characterized by recurrent oral and genital ulcers, skin lesions, uveitis, and various other systemic manifestations.
  • It is a rare autoimmune disorder that predominantly affects individuals from the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries.
  • This guide will cover the epidemiology, etiology, clinical features, diagnosis, and management of Behçet's disease.


  • Behçet's disease is more prevalent in countries along the ancient Silk Road, such as Turkey, Iran, and Japan.
  • It typically affects young adults, with a peak age of onset in the third decade of life.
  • Men are more commonly affected than women.


  • The exact cause of Behçet's disease is unknown, but it is believed to involve genetic, environmental, and immune factors.
  • There is a strong association with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B51 gene.
  • Infection, autoimmunity, and abnormal immune response to oral bacteria have been suggested as possible triggers.

Clinical Features

  1. Oral and Genital Ulcers:
    • Recurrent painful ulcers in the oral cavity and genital area are the hallmark of Behçet's disease.
    • Oral ulcers are shallow, round, and have a pseudomembranous base.
    • genital ulcers are similar in appearance and may cause scarring.
  2. Skin Lesions:
    • Erythema nodosum, papulopustular lesions, and pathergy phenomenon (sterile pustules at sites of needle pricks) are common skin manifestations.
  3. Ocular Involvement:
    • Anterior uveitis, posterior uveitis, or panuveitis can occur and may lead to blindness if not promptly treated.
    • Symptoms include eye pain, redness, photophobia, and decreased visual acuity.
  4. Arthritis:
    • Non-erosive oligoarthritis or polyarthritis involving large joints may be present.
  5. Vascular Involvement:
    • May manifest as thrombophlebitis, deep vein thrombosis, or arterial aneurysms.
    • Aneurysms commonly affect the pulmonary and central nervous systems.
  6. Neurological Manifestations:
    • May include headache, meningitis, cranial nerve palsies, and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.


  • There are no specific diagnostic tests for Behçet's disease, and diagnosis is based on clinical criteria:
    1. Recurrent oral ulcers (at least three episodes in 12 months)
    2. Plus two of the following:
      • Recurrent genital ulcers
      • Eye involvement (anterior/posterior uveitis, retinal vasculitis)
      • Skin involvement (erythema nodosum, papulopustular lesions, pathergy test)
      • Positive pathergy test (sterile pustule at needle prick site)
  • Other causes of similar clinical manifestations should be excluded.


  • There is no cure for Behçet's disease, and treatment aims to control symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.
  • Treatment options include:
    • Topical and systemic corticosteroids for acute flares and specific organ involvement.
    • Immunosuppressive agents (azathioprine, methotrexate) for refractory or severe disease.
    • Biologic agents (anti-TNF agents, interleukin inhibitors) for resistant cases.
    • Symptomatic management of individual manifestations (e.g., topical analgesics for oral ulcers).
  • Regular follow-up is essential to monitor disease activity, assess treatment response, and manage complications.


  • Behçet's disease follows a relapsing-remitting course, with unpredictable exacerbations and remissions.
  • Prognosis varies widely depending on the severity and extent of organ involvement.
  • Eye involvement carries the highest risk of irreversible vision loss.
  • Mortality is mainly associated with complications such as major vessel involvement or central nervous system disease.

Remember to consider Behçet's disease in patients presenting with recurrent oral and genital ulcers, along with other systemic manifestations. Prompt recognition, appropriate management, and interdisciplinary care are essential for optimizing patient outcomes.

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