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Behcet's Disease Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms of Behcet’s disease can vary from mild to very severe. Symptoms tend to appear, heal, and then recur (referred to as a flare) frequently over months or years. The most common symptoms of the disease are:

  • Oral sores
    • Affect almost all people with the disease
    • Usually are the first to appear
    • Usually last for 10 to 14 days
    • Can be painful
    • Can cause scarring

    Ulcerated Gums

    Periodontal Disease
    © 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

  • Genital sores
    • In men: appear on the penis and/or scrotum
    • In women: appear on the vulva or within the vagina
    • Can be painful
    • Can cause scarring
  • Uveitis—inflammation of the middle part of the eye, including the iris
    • Tends to cause eye redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and watering eyes
    • If not treated, can cause partial vision loss or blindness
  • Arthritis —inflammation of joints
    • Tends to be painful
    • Usually does not cause permanent joint damage
  • Skin problems, such as sores
    • May appear as red, raised sores or bumps, or may be flat (flush with the skin)
    • Usually appear on the legs and upper torso

Other symptoms of the disease may include:

  • Severe fatigue during a flare
  • Blood clots
    • Caused by thrombophlebitis (inflammation of veins), usually in the legs
    • Can cause severe complications if not treated quickly
  • Aneurysms , or severely dilated blood vessels
    • May rupture and cause severe consequences
  • Heart problems, such as:
    • Abnormal heart rhythms
    • Missed heartbeats
    • Early heartbeats
    • Inflammation of the heart muscle ( myocarditis )
  • Central nervous system problems
    • For example, meningoencephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain and membrane that lines the brain
    • May result in seizures , confusion, strokes , memory problems, headaches

    Stroke from a Cerebral Aneurysm

    Cerebral Aneurysm
    © 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

  • Digestive problems
    • Causes ulcers and inflammation of the digestive tract (rarely)


Diagnosing Behcet’s disease is very difficult because:

  • Symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases.
  • Symptoms often appear very slowly, over months or years.
  • There is no specific test to confirm the disease.

A doctor may suspect Behcet’s disease if oral sores appear at least three times within a year, and at least two of the following recurring symptoms appear:

  • Eye inflammation
  • Genital sores
  • Skin sores

If Behcet’s disease is suspected, your doctor will do tests to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms. Also, you may have a pathergy skin test. For this test, your skin is pricked with a small needle. If you have Behcet’s disease, a bump will develop at the site of the skin prick. However, this test is not conclusive. Many people with the disease do not have a reaction to the skin prick.

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