, Volume 72, Issue 17, pp 2223–2241 | Cite as

Behcet’s Syndrome

Review Article


Behcet’s syndrome (BS) is a vasculitis, seen more commonly around the Mediterranean and the Far East, and manifests with oral and genital ulcerations, skin lesions, uveitis, and vascular, central nervous system and gastrointestinal involvement. Its natural history of getting less severe over time, more severe disease in males and lack of specific diagnostic testing separates it from other commonly seen conditions in rheumatology. Most of the serious manifestations respond well to immunosuppression, and these are the mainstays of treatment for BS.

BS is more prevalent in regions along the Silk Road, from the Mediterranean to the Far East. The genetic risk factor most strongly associated with BS is the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B51 allele. While genetic factors seem to play a role in the development of certain features of BS, there is general consensus that as yet unidentified environmental stimuli are necessary for initiation of disease. Proposed exogenous triggers include both bacterial and viral infections, which may then lead to dysregulation of the immune system, ultimately leading to the phenotypic expression of disease.

The clinical manifestations of BS are protean in nature. While most patients develop mucocutaneous and genital ulcers along with eye disease, other patients may also present with arthritis, frank vasculitis, thrombophlebitis and CNS disease. Interestingly, the manifestations of this illness vary considerably based on gender and ethnicity.

As the phenotypic expression among patients with BS is quite heterogeneous, pharmacological therapy is variable and dependent upon the severity of the disease as well as organ involvement. Treatment for BS overlaps considerably with therapies for other autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and the vasculitides. Pharmacological agents utilized for treatment of BS include corticosteroids, colchicine, azathioprine, and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α inhibitors, among others. In this article, we review the salient clinical studies for each drug class along with important side effects as well as drug toxicity monitoring.

Management of the patient with BS is complex and oftentimes requires a multidisciplinary approach. We discuss strategies to assess and stratify patients based on clinical manifestations and disease severity. A summary of drug toxicities as they relate to the aforementioned pharmacological agents, as well as guidelines regarding vaccinations in this patient population, are offered. Finally, we conclude with treatment strategies for the common manifestations of BS along with a discussion of the management of thrombotic disease in these patients.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of RheumatologyDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.NYU Hospital for Joint DiseasesNew YorkUSA

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