Background Behcet's disease (BD) is a rare systemic inflammatory disorder characterized by specific clinical features1 that are well known to rheumatologists worldwide. It is particularly common in the Mediterranean, the Middle and the Far East, but very rare in the rest of the world.1 Furthermore, there are indications that the prevalence of BD in Cyprus is high - for example ten times that of the UK.2 For this reason, it would be particularly important for physicians in Cyprus not only to be aware of the existence of this disease but also to be able to detect it. Early diagnosis is of paramount importance because left untreated, the disease may lead to severe consequences including severe vascular complications and blindness.1
Objectives The primary objective of this project was to detect whether physicians in Cyprus are able to recognize some of the important clinical features of the disease that could help them differentiate BD from other disorders with similar clinical characteristics and to manage or refer accordingly.
Methods A cross sectional self-report survey was conducted within a 14 week time-frame via a paper and online questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent out to 1800 physicians in Cyprus and included 10 items. The total number of doctors in the country is around 2000. 148 physicians responded representing an 8.2% response rate. The average age of the participants in the study was 46.0±16.0.
Results Overall, the majority of participants (82%) were aware that BD was commoner in the Middle and the Far East, even though most rarely saw (64%) or had never seen any patients (31%) with BD. Furthermore, the majority of physicians (55%) felt that they were not confident in managing such a patient. A significant minority (35%) stated that they would sometimes manage the patient depending on the case. Most expressed an interest to learn more about BD (84%) if they were given the option to do so.
The majority (51%) were not aware of any genetic associations. Of the rest (49%) who claimed to know, only a quarter (26%) gave the exact name of the allele (HLA-B51).
Most of the respondents were aware of three out of the main clinical features associated with BD whilst a minority knew about the less common ones.
Conclusions This was the first attempt at quantifying physician awareness regarding Behcet's disease in Cyprus. The high local prevalence makes it important that doctors can recognise if not manage the condition adequately. The indications here were that despite potential non-response bias (people who know more about the condition answer the questionnaire while those who know less ignore it) there is room for improvement regarding this locally important condition. Methods of improving awareness may be the subject of future projects.
Sakane T, Takeno M, et al. Behcet's Disease. N Engl J Med. 21 October 1999; 341(17): 1284-1291.
Kompogiorgas S, Solonos M, et al. Behcet's Disease in Cyprus - A First Attempt at Describing Patient Characteristics. Ann Rheum Dis. 2013; 72(Suppl3):322.
Disclosure of Interest : None declared