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Why some people with IBD are at higher risk for skin complications

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Why do some people with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis develop skin complications and others do not? Researchers recently studied who is at higher risk risk for two types skin conditions associated with IBD in findings that could help for anyone exploring treatment options for Crohn's or colitis.

Who is more prone to skin conditions from IBD?

Two skin condition in particular, erythema nodosum inflammatory and pyoderma gangrenosum, develop in approximately two to four percent of people with ulcerative colitis and 1 to 2 percent of those with Crohn’s disease (CD).The study authors for the current investigation explored which group of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (UC) patients are most likely to develop symptoms that develop outside of the intestines; associated with IBD.

Erythema nodosum is the latin term for “red bumps” that can occur on the ankles, shins or arms. Pyoderma gangrenosum begins with small blisters on the skin in the same areas as erythema nodosum but they can become infected and turn into ulcers. Treatment often requires antibiotics or local injections and tend to appear with IBD flare-ups. The condition affects 5 percent of Crohn’s patients but just 1 percent of people with ulcerative colitis.

For their study, researchers looked at data from 270 patients with Crohn's disease and 125 patients with ulcerative colitis to identify who is at highest risk. The information was collected between 2003 and 2011. Among the study group, at least 37 patients had at least one skin lesions related to having IBD.

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The study authors took into account types of therapy used to treat CD or UC, gender, smoking history, age of diagnosis, family history, the location and severity of skin lesions, whether the study group had IBD related surgery, type of IBD and disease pattern.

Study results

The finding showed:

  • Women with IBD are more likely to develop skin problems than are men, supporting past statistics. Skin problems from Crohn’s disease is more frequent, versus UC.
  • Having received biological therapies was associated with a 6.8 percent chance of skin lesions compared to an 11.2 percent chance among people who had not been treated with drugs like Adalimumab or Humira and Infliximab (brand name Remicade).
  • Having other manifestations of Crohn’s or colitis outside of the intestines was also associated with higher risk of developing the skin problems.
  • Younger age of IBD diagnosis was also a predictor, compared to those diagnosed later in life.

The authors concluded using biological therapies early to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis prevents skin problems that can result from IBD. The finding, published this month online in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology could help patients and clinicians make informed decisions when considering IBD treatment options.

Skin complications of IBD

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons



I have IBS and I am constantly getting red dots I scratch then they then into ugly soars. Some previously gotten so bad from my scratching that it has left scares and discoloration in my skin pigments in the soar healed areas.
April, I am so sorry. Are you getting treatment for that? Do let your doctor know if you haven't already.