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Behcet's disease is a rare, chronic, lifelong disease that affects mainly young adults, with men having more severe symptoms than women do. Although the exact cause remains unclear, Behcet's syndrome is thought to arise as a result of an autoimmune response, that is, when the body's defense mechanism malfunctions and begins to attack its own tissues.
The syndrome involves inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. Symptoms include recurrent oral ulcers, recurrent genital ulcers, and eye inflammation It may also cause various types of skin lesions, arthritis, bowel inflammation, and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord). The symptoms usually flare up then go into remission. The time between attacks tends to be unpredictable; it can be as short as a few days, or it can be long as years before a person has another episode. Behcet's syndrome affects men five to 10 times more frequently than women. On average, the first symptoms appear between the ages of 10 and 30.
Although Behcet's syndrome can be a chronic condition, most symptoms diminish over time. Treatment, therefore, focuses on the symptoms. Vasculitis and inflammatory eye disease will require glucocorticoids and perhaps other immunosuppressive drugs. Mouth sores may be treated with glucocorticoids in the form of mouthwash or paste. Colchicine, thalidomide and dapsone may be helpful for the skin or joint disease. Joint inflammation may require anti-inflammatory agents, pain medications, physical therapy and, occasionally, other immunosuppressive medications.
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