Overview of Behcet's Disease

Behcet's disease, also called Behcet's syndrome, is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes recurrent sores in the mouth and on the genitals, and inflammation in the eyes. This multisystemic disease (i.e., disorder that involves several organ systems), which affects small blood vessels throughout the body, also may cause arthritis (painful swelling in the joints), sores on the skin, and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells (e.g., leukocytes, lymphocytes, phagocytes, B cells, CD8+ cells), and proteins that protects the body from disease and illness. It attacks foreign organisms (e.g., germs), identifies and destroys abnormal cells, and flushes dead and damaged cells out of the body. In autoimmune disorders such as Behcet's disease, the immune system attacks normal cells in the body and causes damage and inflammation.

Incidence & Prevalence of Behcet's Disease

Behcet's disease is more common in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, and in East Asia. Because of the prevalence of the disorder in these areas of the world, Behcet's disease is sometimes referred to as "silk road disease." It is relatively rare in the United States.

Worldwide, Behcet's disease affects men more often than women; however, in the United States, it is more common in women. The disease commonly develops between the ages of 20 and 40, but it may occur at any age.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 May 2006

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015