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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Behçet's (bay-setz) syndrome is a rare disease that causes inflammation of many parts of the body. These include the skin of the genital area, lining of the mouth, eye, nervous system, joints and blood vessels. The most characteristic problems include ulcers in the mouth and genital areas, and serious eye inflammation. It is also called Behçet's syndrome.

The exact cause of the disease remains unclear. But Behçet's disease is thought to involve an autoimmune response. This means the body's defense mechanism begins to attack its own tissues. Something in the environment may trigger this abnormal immune response in susceptible individuals. Genetic factors may also play a role.

Usually, symptoms flare up repeatedly and then improve. The time between attacks may be as short as a few days or as long as years. In some people with more severe disease, symptoms vary in intensity but are always present.

The first symptoms usually appear between ages 20 and 30.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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