Behcet’s Disease is a very rare disorder causing inflammation in the blood vessels. The definition of “very rare” is there are fewer than 20,000 cases in the US per year. Behcet’s disease, or Silk Road Disease, affects everyone from ages 6 to 60. After being diagnosed by a doctor the disease can last a lifetime. Treatment can possibly bring some type of relief from symptoms, but there isn’t a known cure. Current research has remained inconclusive as to a true cause of the disease. It is suggested that viral, bacterial, genetic, and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disease, but it is not specified as to the actual cause or triggers. Behcet’s disease is not contagious and treatment is symptomatic based on the principle of reducing symptoms and preventing complications. Since there is no known cure, the only relief a patient may feel from Behcet’s Disease is the relief from individual symptoms and not the disease as a whole.
Behcet’s Disease and its symptoms
Lesions: Lesions, or sores, are the main symptoms of the Silk Road disease. There three different parts of the body that the lesions appear. The first, and usually the first symptom, is oral lesions. These sores can be shallow or deep, round or oval, white or yellow with a red halo, and they can be very painful. Second most common symptom, as well as a lesion, is genital lesions. Only appearing 75% of patients, these sores are generally deeper and more painful than oral lesions. The last set of lesions isn’t very common. Gastrointestinal lesions usually only occur in 25% of patients. Also, it takes years after oral lesions develop for gastrointestinal lesions to form. These lesions can affect anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus.
Ocular Manifestations: Also known as Uveitis, Ocular manifestations are the symptoms showing in the eye. Swelling of the blood vessels in the eye on both the anterior and the posterior sections can only be caused by a select few diseases. Some effect one or the other, not both. This symptom can cause difficulties for the patient including pain, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and redness. If gone untreated, Uveitis can cause permanent loss of sight.
Arthritis: Mono-articular and poly-articular arthritis presents itself in 50% of patients. Pain, swelling, and stiffness of the knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows are the most prevalent. Also, at times arthritis can present itself as Sacroiliitis. Sacroiliitis is swelling in one or both of the sacroiliac joints, the joints connecting the spine to the pelvic bone. This swelling can cause pain stretching from the lower back down one or both of the legs. It has also been linked to inflammatory arthritis in the spine.
Lungs: Lung involvement isn’t very common in patients, but when it is affected it can prove to be fatal. Coughing and shortness of breath are a couple small risk symptoms, but the most dangerous is Pulmonary Artery Aneurysms. Pulmonary Artery Aneurysms are uncommon entities found in the arteries of the lung. The main features of the pulmonary involvement in Bechet’s Disease is arterial and venous thrombosis, pulmonary artery aneurysms, pulmonary infarction, bronchiolitis obliterans organized pneumonia, recurrent pneumonia, and pleurisy.
Central Nervous System: Behcet’s disease with neurological involvement, Neuro-Behcet’s disease, shows damage in 5%-50% of cases. Most commonly, 30% of Behcet’s patients, mainly in America and Europe, are at risk for some type of central nerve damage. The neurological symptoms include headache, strokes, personality changes, confusion, and memory loss. These Behcet’s Disease symptoms may be due to aseptic meningitis or lesions in the white matter of the brain and brain stem.