Behcet's disease: Symptoms, treatment and food
A growing number of people around the globe are suffering from autoimmune disorders these days. This comes about when their immune systems can no longer tell the difference between healthy cells and invading micro-organisms. The body's immune system that once protected them is instead attacking their tissue and organs. These diseases include Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis, among many others.
Behcet's disease, a rare disease also known as Behcet's Syndrome, may also be considered an autoimmune disorder. Actually, it is a little more complex since Behcet's has features of an autoinflammatory disease as well.
Basically, it results in inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body. The cause of the disease is yet unknown but its symptoms include mouth and genital sores, inflamed eyes and skin rashes and lesions.
Possible cause of Behcet's disease
The symptoms of Behcet's disease are considered to be due to inflammation of the blood vessels or vasculitis. The condition can involve arteries and veins of all sizes, damaging them throughout the body. The signs and symptoms also depend a lot on which part of the body is affected. The commonly affected areas are the mouth, skin, genitals, eyes, joints, blood vessels, digestive system and brain.
Symptoms of Behcet's disease
If it's the mouth - Painful sores are a very common sign. They begin as raised, round lesions in the mouth that turn into painful ulcers. The sores usually heal in one to three weeks, but they are likely to recur.
Skin - Acne like sores can develop on the skin or they could appear as red, raised and tender nodules on the skin, especially in the lower legs.
Genitals - Red, open sores can occur on the scrotum or the vulva. They are usually painful and leave behind scars.
Eyes - Inflammation can cause redness, pain and blurred vision, typically in both eyes. The condition can come and go.
Joints - Joint swelling and pain mostly affects the knees of people with Behcet's disease. The ankles, elbows or wrists also might be involved. The symptoms can last one to three weeks and go away on their own.
Blood vessels - Inflammation in veins and arteries can cause redness, pain and swelling in the arms or legs when a blood clot results. Inflammation in the large arteries can lead to complications like aneurysms and narrowing or blockage of the vessel.
Digestive system - Symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea and bleeding can be seen.
Brain - Inflammation in the brain and nervous system can cause headaches, fever, disorientation, poor balance and stroke.
Why do you get possibly get Behcet's disease
Genetic and environmental factors play a major role in Behcet's. Age, sex and geography can increase your risk of getting the disease. It mostly affects people in their twenties and thirties though older adults and children can also develop this condition. Also the disease appears more severely in men.
Geography also appears to be a factor with people living in the Middle East and East Asia countries as well as those residing in Turkey, Iran, Japan and China, being more likely to develop Behcet's.
Several genes have been found to be associated with the disease. Some researchers believe a virus or bacterium can trigger Behcet's disease in people who have certain genes that make them susceptible to it.
Eating a balanced and varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and avoiding food that contains too much fat or sugar is best for overall health. Some people with the condition have suggested that sensitivity to certain foods may trigger a flare. There is no one definite diet for those suffering from disorders like Behcet's, but there is a common thread. Any diet tailored to suit your symptoms will need to include anti-inflammatory food.
Anti-inflammatory foods to include in diet:
- Whole grains (millets and brown rice)
- Lentils and whole beans
- Monounsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds
- Polyunsaturated omega 3 fats like walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and sea fish
- Herbs and spices like ginger and turmeric and the Indian spice box with any spices
- Sweetened beverages like soda, juice
- Excess of refined carbs like white bread, pasta and rice
- Fried food
- Processed meat like bacon, sausage and hot dogs
- Saturated fats like cream and butter
- Excess alcohol
A plant-based, macrobiotic or a Mediterranean diet seems to fit the requirement best. For those who have Behcet's related mouth ulcers, it would be advisable to avoid pineapples, oranges, dairy foods includes cheese and yogurt, nuts, especially almonds/peanuts, sugar and sugary foods-especially refined white flour.
Managing Behcet's disease
Steroids, mouthwash and eye drops can only provide relief and help manage the symptoms. Currently there is no cure for this condition, which can last for anything between a few years or a lifetime. What one can do is undergo certain treatments which can help relieve symptoms.
If the symptoms of Behcet's are left untreated, it could lead to serious complications such as blindness. Therefore people with eye symptoms of Behcet's disease need to visit an eye specialist regularly so that their condition can be monitored.