Signs and Symptoms of Behcet's Disease

Symptoms of Behcet's disease vary from mild to severe, are chronic (long-lasting), and often come and go. Flares (worsening of symptoms) and remissions (improvement of symptoms) are common in patients who have the disorder.

Symptoms include the following:

  • Arthritis (joint inflammation; results in pain, stiffness, and swelling)
  • Genital sores (usually appear on the scrotum in men and the vulva in women; may be painful)
  • Inflammation of the middle part of the eye (uveitis; may cause blurred vision)
  • Mouth sores (often the first signs of the disease; may be painful)
  • Skin sores (usually appear on the legs and upper body; often red and raised)

Arthritis that results from Behcet's disease usually affects the knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows, and does not cause permanent damage to the joints.

Eye inflammation (e.g., uveitis) also may cause pain and redness. Partial vision loss or blindness, resulting from glaucoma or retinal detachment, can occur from untreated or recurring eye inflammation.

Oral and genital sores (ulcers) are the predominant finding in patients who have Behcet's disease. The sores usually are round, pearl-colored lesions, which are red-rimmed and painful. Patients who experience more than 6 oral lesions of this type or develop mouth sores more than 3 times in 1 year should be evaluated for Behcet's disease.

General symptoms that can occur prior to an acute attack include the following:

  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Increased perspiration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Recurring sore throat
  • Weight loss

Behcet's Disease Complications

Behcet's is a multisystemic disease and often involves several organ systems throughout the body. Complications of the disorder include the following:

  • Blood clots (may cause stroke or deep vein thrombosis [DVT])
  • Inflammation of the digestive tract (may cause abdominal pain, blood in the stool, and diarrhea)
  • Inflammation of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)
  • Vision loss (most common complication)

Nervous system involvement may result in meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord), headaches, memory loss, and impaired speech, balance, and movement.

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

Published: 31 May 2006

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015