Behçet disease

Behçet syndrome or disease is a disease of unknown causes or origin, though it has been around for some time. Behcet syndrome is characterised by ulcers in the mouth, genitals and eyes, and in the vascular system.​1​

Behçet syndrome is thought to be a multi-system inflammatory disease with a variety of symptoms and manifestations. This condition can be complex to diagnose, since it based only on a set of clinical criteria, and these vary by geography.​2​

Behçet syndrome is thought to occur in between 0.33 and 370 cases per 100,000 people, but there are places where the incidence is much higher than others.

Who gets Behçet disease?

Behçet disease is more common in Turkish, Asian and Middle Eastern people.​3,4​ In Asia, it is more common in females, but in the Middle East, more males develop this disease. Behçet disease appears to be more severe in males.

  • Olmsted County, Minnesota – 5 per 100,000 people
  • Turkey – 80-370 per 100,000 people
  • Japan, Korea, China, Middle East – 13-20 per 100,000 people
  • Northern Spain – 0.66 per 100,000 people
  • Germany – 2.26 per 100,000 people

Age of onset of Behçet disease

Typically Behcet syndrome appears in the late third and early fourth decades of life and during childhood, with the Turkish average age of onset being 11.7 years, with the disease rarely occurring in kindergarten-aged children.​5​

Signs, symptoms, and pathophysiology of Behçet syndrome

  • Recurrent aphthous ulcers (canker sores)
  • Genital ulcers (vulva, vagina)
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the uvea, middle layer of the eye)
  • Retinal vasculitis (inflammation of the retina)
  • Arthritis
  • Gut lesions
  • Nervous system problems
  • Vascular lesions (aneurysms, thrombosis)

Genital manifestations of Behçet syndrome

Genital ulcers appear in the vulva and vagina and are painful, recurrent, and leave scars. These usually occur less than oral ulcers, but genital (vulvar and vaginal) ulcers are deeper and larger than mouth ulcers. The vagina can harbour undiscovered asymptomatic ulcers.

Other symptoms of Behçet syndrome

These include oral ulcers, which are the hallmark of the disease. Next in line are the eyes, skin, arthritis, intestinal disturbances, headache, stiff neck, and vascular complaints.

Cause of Behçet disease

There are links with genetic and environmental factors, but no single cause that accompanies every case can be found.

The HLA-B51 allele is often found in patients from Asia and the Middle East but not in Europeans or Americans. Virus infections, particularly herpes simplex virus (HSV), hepatitis C, and parvovirus B19, can be singled out.

Streptococcal antigens have also been suspected – prophylactic penicillin decreased acute arthritis episodes in some patients.

If you have a parent with Behcet syndrome, onset tends to be at a younger age. Children with Behçet syndrome are likely to have a family history of the disease.

What else could it be?

Treatment of Behçet syndrome

There is growing evidence that non-drug herbal and alternative treatments have a significant role to play in managing Behcet syndrome​7​.

If you have Behcet syndrome and seek holistic, integrative care after diagnosis, schedule a consultation with one of our specialist practitioners.

Each patient will be medically managed by their physician based on their circumstances. Medical doctors will typically prescribe medications to help manage the condition. There is no cure. Surgery may be used in certain instances.​6​

References​8–10​

  1. 1.
    Mangelsdorf HC, White WL, Jorizzo JL. Behçet’s disease. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Published online May 1996:745-750. doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(96)90006-7
  2. 2.
    Alibaz-Oner F, Direskeneli H. Update on the Diagnosis of Behçet’s Disease. Diagnostics. Published online December 23, 2022:41. doi:10.3390/diagnostics13010041
  3. 3.
    Sula. Demographical and Clinical Characteristics of Behcet’s Disease in Southeastern Turkey. J Clin Med Res. Published online 2014. doi:10.14740/jocmr1952w
  4. 4.
    Azizlerli G, Akdağ Köse A, Sarıca R, et al. Prevalence of Behçet’s disease in Istanbul, Turkey. Int J Dermatology. Published online October 2003:803-806. doi:10.1046/j.1365-4362.2003.01893.x
  5. 5.
    Melikoğlu M, Melikoğlu M. The Influence of Age on Behcet’s Disease Activity. Eurasian J Med. 2008;40(2):68-71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25610030
  6. 6.
    Cobellis L, Pecori E, Rigatti F, et al. Therapeutic alternatives in Behçet’s syndrome. Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2007;34(3):151-153. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17937089
  7. 7.
    Jun JH, Choi TY, Lee HW, Ang L, Lee MS. Herbal Medicine for Behçet’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. Published online December 25, 2020:46. doi:10.3390/nu13010046
  8. 8.
    Kiafar M, Faezi ST, Kasaeian A, et al. Diagnosis of Behçet’s disease: clinical characteristics, diagnostic criteria, and differential diagnoses. BMC Rheumatol. Published online January 15, 2021. doi:10.1186/s41927-020-00172-1
  9. 9.
    Davatchi F. Diagnosis/Classification Criteria for Behcet’s Disease. Pathology Research International. Published online September 27, 2012:1-5. doi:10.1155/2012/607921
  10. 10.
    Kim ES, Chung WC, Lee KM, et al. A Case of Intestinal Behcet’s Disease Similar to Crohn’s Colitis. J Korean Med Sci. Published online 2007:918. doi:10.3346/jkms.2007.22.5.918


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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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