A retrospective study of CSF and serum analysis from a total of 43 patients with sarcoidosis, 20 with systemic lupus erythematosus, and 12 with Behçet's disease with neurological involvement found local synthesis of oligoclonal IgG using isoelectric focusing and immunoblotting in 51%, 25%, and 8% respectively at some stage in their disease. Blood-brain barrier breakdown, when assessed with an albumin ratio found 47% of patients with sarcoidosis, 30% of those with systemic lupus erythematosus, and 42% of patients with Behçet's disease exhibiting abnormal barrier function at some time. Serial CSF analysis showed that clinical relapses were associated with worsening barrier function and in some patients the development of local oligoclonal IgG synthesis; conversely steroid treatment led to a statistically significant improvement in barrier function, and in two patients a loss of oligoclonal IgG bands. A higher proportion of patients had MRI abnormalities than oligoclonal IgG or blood-brain barrier breakdown, MRI being abnormal in 16 of 19 patients with sarcoidosis, three of four patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, and seven of nine patients with Behçet's disease, although this may have been due to temporal factors. In the differential diagnosis of chronic neurological disorders, locally synthesised oligoclonal IgG cannot distinguish between diseases, but the loss of bands seen in two patients contrasts with what is seen in multiple sclerosis, and thus may be a useful diagnostic clue.