Diagnosing Behçet's disease 

Confirming a diagnosis of Behçet's disease can be difficult because the symptoms are so wide ranging and can be shared with a number of other conditions.

There is also no definitive test that can be used to diagnose Behçet's disease, so several tests may be necessary to check for possible signs of the condition and rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Tests

The tests recommended will vary depending on your symptoms, but could include:

Pathergy test

A pathergy test may be used to measure the sensitivity of your skin, as people with Behçet's disease often have particularly sensitive skin.

This test involves pricking your skin with a needle to see if a particular red spot appears within the next day or two.

A positive result does not always mean you have the condition, but it can help your doctor make a diagnosis. However, positive pathergy tests are less commonly observed in people from the UK.

Diagnostic criteria

If other potential causes of your symptoms have been ruled out, a diagnosis of Behçet's disease can often be made based on a pattern of symptoms that is common in the condition.

Current guidelines state a diagnosis of Behçet's disease can usually be made confidently if you have experienced at least three episodes of mouth ulcers over the past 12 months and you have at least two of the following symptoms:

  • genital ulcers
  • eye inflammation
  • skin lesions (any unusual growths or abnormalities that develops on the skin)
  • pathergy

Read more about the symptoms of Behçet's disease.

After a diagnosis

A natural response to receiving a diagnosis of a complex condition such as Behçet's disease is to find out as much as possible about the condition.

However, in the UK this may be difficult because Behçet's disease is so rare that even most healthcare professionals know little or nothing about it.

A good place to start to learn more about Behçet's disease is the Behçet's Syndrome Society (BSS) website. BSS is the UK's main patient support group for people with Behçet's disease.

The BSS website has a range of information about different aspects of Behçet's disease, a member's forum, blogs, plus links to other useful resources.

Specialist Behçet's disease centres

There are three NHS Centres of Excellence that have been set up to help diagnose and treat people with Behçet's disease in England.

These are located in London, Birmingham and Liverpool.

You may be referred to one of these centres so a diagnosis can be confirmed. Staff at these centres may also liaise with specialists at other centres to help with a person's management and treatment, even if they are not seen directly.

You can find out more about these centres on the Behçet's Syndrome Centres of Excellence website.

Page last reviewed: 01/09/2014

Next review due: 01/09/2016