Behcet's Syndrome - Symptoms

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What are symptoms of Behçet's syndrome?

The symptoms of Behçet's syndrome depend on the area of the body affected. Behçet's syndrome can involve inflammation of many areas of the body. These areas include the arteries that supply blood to the body's tissues. Behçet's syndrome can also affect the veins that take the blood back to the lungs to replenish oxygen. Other areas of body that can be affected by the inflammation of Behçet's syndrome include the back of the eyes (retina), brain, joints, skin, and bowels.

The mouth and genital ulcers of Behçet's syndrome are generally painful and tend to recur in crops (many shallow ulcers occur at the same time). They range in size from a few millimeters to 20 millimeters in diameter. The mouth ulcers occur on the gums, tongue, and inner lining of the mouth. The genital ulcers occur on the scrotum and penis of males and vulva of women and can leavescars.

Inflammation of the eye, which can involve the front of the eye (uvea) causing uveitis, or the back of the eye (retina) causing retinitis, can lead to blindness. Symptoms of eye inflammation include pain, blurred vision, tearing, redness, and pain when looking at bright lights. It is very important for patients with BBehçet's syndrome to have this sensitive area monitored by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).

If the arteries become inflamed (arteritis) from Behçet's syndrome, it can lead to death of the tissues whose oxygen supply depends on these vessels. This could cause a stroke if it is affecting the brain vessels, belly pain if affecting the bowel, etc. When veins become inflamed (phlebitis), the inflammation can involve large veins that develop blood clots which can loosen and migrate to cause pulmonary embolisms.

Symptoms of inflammation of the brain or tissue that covers the brain (meninges) include headaches, neck stiffness, and is often associated with fever. Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and/or the meninges (meningitis) can cause damage to nervous tissue and lead to weakness or impaired function of portions of the body. This can result in confusion and coma. Typically these features occur later in the disease course, years after the diagnosis.

Joint inflammation (arthritis) can lead to swelling, stiffness, warmth, pain, and tenderness of joints with Behçet's syndrome. This occurs in about half of patients with Behçet's syndrome at sometime during their lives. Knees, wrists, ankles, and elbows are the most common joints affected. The skin of patients with Behçet's syndrome can develop areas of inflammation that spontaneously appear as raised, tender, reddish nodules (erythema nodosum), typically on the front of the legs. Some patients with Behçet's syndrome develop a peculiar red or blistery skin reaction in places where they have been pierced by blood-drawing needles (see pathergy test in diagnosis section). Research has found that acne occurs more frequently in patients with Behçet's syndrome that also have arthritis as a manifestation.

Ulcerations can occur at any location in the stomach, large or small bowel in patients with Behçet's disease.

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Comment from: andesign, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: June 15

I am a 41 year old male with Behcet's syndrome. I have had gastrointestinal problems and external ulcerations. I recently self-started prednisone due to what I perceived as a possible eye involvement. The general physician is suspecting temporal arteritis. I have not been able to get a confirmed diagnosis due to low ESR and CRP in blood and no specialist will do a biopsy with the low blood counts. I had the blood tests on the third day of steroid use. The advice from the ophthalmologist is to stop the steroids and see what happens and retake the blood test one week after steroid stopping. The symptoms I have been experiencing include stabbing pains in both eyes intermediately as if in different spots, pain behind the eyes and in the temples, pain in the jaw intermediately, not necessarily after eating and numbness on the right side of my face. The right eye pains have also been more predominant. The prednisone did appear to dampen the symptoms, I have taken 50 mg a day over the period and am weaning off.

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Comment from: Lily, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: August 12

I was diagnosed with Behcet's syndrome in 2014. My symptoms consists of ulcers (mouth and down below), erythema nodosum, eye inflammation, stomach pain, headaches, back pain and fatigues. I have been on azathioprine, steroids and vitamins for a year. I am visiting my general physician (GP) every couple of weeks for blood tests and a specialist consultant every 4 months. Still working on getting the right dose for my medication, my white blood cells are very irregular due to the side effects of Imuran. We are trying a new low dose which I am hoping will help. Being a single mum with two very active kids who are below five is a challenge. I was hoping to return to work but I was so disappointed and frustrated when my last blood test in the beginning of August was so low that my GP was worried about my health. She called me and advised me to keep a close eye on my health and that I should watch out for any infection because I will have to be treated like someone who is going through chemotherapy. I am feeling ok and I am getting a lot of support from my family and friends. I am hoping that we get the right dose for my treatment and I can get back to work.

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