Behcet's Syndrome: A Rare Autoimmune Disorder That Can Cause Eye Problems

Posted on

Behcet's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. Although the disease can involve multiple organ systems, symptoms generally manifest as mouth sores and vision problems, including blurry vision, dry eyes, and eye pain. Since there are no specific tests to diagnose the disease, doctors base the diagnosis and treatment on the symptoms you experience.

Symptoms of Behcet's Syndrome

Because symptoms of Behcet's syndrome can come and go and don't always seem related, diagnosing the disorder can be difficult and may take time. Not everyone experiences the same signs and symptoms, which can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms that commonly occur in people with the disease include:

  • Mouth sores and ulcers

  • Swelling and redness that can occur in one or both eyes

  • Skin sores and rashes on other parts of the body, including the genital area

  • Stiff, swollen, and painful joints

More serious symptoms of Behcet's syndrome that are less common include:

  • Decreased vision or blindness when uveitis (inflammation of the eye between the white of the eye and retina) goes untreated

  • Inflammation in the brain and spinal cord

The disease can also affect the vascular and digestive systems.

Cause of the Syndrome

Although the cause of Behcet's syndrome is unknown, genetic and environmental factors may play a role. Researchers also suspect that exposure to certain viruses and bacteria may trigger this chronic, autoimmune disorder in people who carry a gene that makes them more prone to developing the disease.

Anyone can develop the disease, but it occurs more often in adults in their 20s and 30s. In the United States, women develop the disease more frequently than men.

Treatment of Eye Symptoms

Treatment of Behcet's syndrome depends on the severity of the disease and the specific symptoms you suffer. Although blindness can occur over time in some people, if caught early, doctors can treat the disorder with medications to prevent complications.

While currently there is no cure, if you suffer from this rare autoimmune disorder, it's important to make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as you notice eye symptoms. Your ophthalmologist can prescribe steroid eye drops to control inflammation in the eyes. He or she can also prescribe pain relievers if necessary.

If you suffer only minor symptoms of the disease, your doctor may only prescribe medications when you experience a flare. But if you have a more serious form of the syndrome, your doctors–including your ophthalmologist–may recommend treatments between flares to control inflammation and prevent more serious complications from occurring. For more information or assistance, contact local doctors like Jo Johnson, M.D.