To investigate the epidemiology and clinical course of Behçet's disease (BD) over a 17-year period in a defined area of northern Italy.Methods
All patients with incident BD diagnosed over a 17-year period (from January 1, 1988 to December 31, 2004) living in the Reggio Emilia area were identified through the following sources: physicians at Reggio Emilia Hospital, medical practitioners, and community-based specialists. We identified all patients registered in a centralized index and in the Reggio Emilia district database for rare diseases. Patients were followed up from the time of diagnosis until either their death or April 1, 2005.Results
Eighteen patients (9 men and 9 women) had complete BD. Mean ± SD age at diagnosis was 33 ± 7 years. The incidence rate of BD was 0.24 per 100,000. The prevalence of BD on January 1, 2005 was 3.8 per 100,000. No patients died during the followup period. Although all patients developed oral ulceration during the disease course, 22.2% had no oral lesions at disease onset. Eye disease occurred in 55.6%. Ocular disease was more common in men and appeared at disease onset or within the first few years of disease onset (median 3 years). Only 1 patient had loss of useful vision in at least 1 eye at the end of followup. In all affected patients, visual acuity improved once treatment was started.Conclusion
This population-based study is the first to report the prevalence and incidence of BD in Italy. In Italian patients, BD is nonfatal and the prognosis of eye disease is good.