Crohn’s disease affects the GI tract, but it can also result in skin issues. Acne and canker sores may appear on the face, while blisters or psoriasis could appear elsewhere. Sometimes, a change in medications may help.

The typical symptoms of Crohn’s disease stem from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, causing issues like belly pain, diarrhea, and bloody stools. Up to 40% of people with Crohn’s disease also have symptoms in other areas of their body, such as on their skin.

Here are some of the most common skin conditions related to Crohn’s disease and how doctors treat them.

Erythema nodosum causes painful bumps to erupt on the skin that look red or darker than the surrounding skin, according to the National Health Service. They usually appear on the shins, ankles, and sometimes the arms. It’s the most common skin manifestation of Crohn’s disease, affecting up to 15% of people with this condition.

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Over time, the bumps slowly turn purple. Some people have a fever and joint pain with erythema nodosum.

Following your Crohn’s disease treatment regimen should improve this skin symptom. Potassium iodide and oral steroids can help, but if you have Crohn’s, you should avoid NSAIDs as they may trigger a flare-up.

Large open sores on your legs and sometimes other areas are a sign of pyoderma gangrenosum. This skin condition is rare overall, but it affects up to 5% of people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Pyoderma gangrenosum usually starts with small bumps that look like insect bites on the shins or ankles. The bumps grow larger and eventually combine into one big open sore.

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Treatment involves medication that’s injected into the sore or rubbed on it. Keeping the wound covered with a clean dressing will help it heal and prevent infection.

Anal fissures are small tears in the skin lining the anus. According to experts, people with Crohn’s disease may develop these tears because of chronic inflammation in their intestines.

Fissures can cause pain and bleeding, especially during bowel movements.

They sometimes heal on their own. If they don’t, treatments include nitroglycerin cream, pain-relieving cream, and Botox injections to promote healing and ease discomfort. Surgery is an option for fissures that have not healed with other treatments.

The same breakouts that affect many teenagers can also be a concern for some people with Crohn’s disease. These skin eruptions aren’t from the condition, but the steroids used to treat Crohn’s.

Doctors usually prescribe steroids only in the short term to manage Crohn’s flares. Once you stop taking them, your skin should clear up.

Skin tags are skin-colored growths that typically form in areas where skin rubs against skin, such as in the armpits or groin. In Crohn’s disease, they form around hemorrhoids or fissures in the anus where the skin is swollen.

Although skin tags are harmless, they may become irritated in the anal area when feces get stuck in them. Wiping well after each bowel movement and keeping the area clean can prevent irritation and pain.

Up to 50% of people with Crohn’s disease develop a fistula. This is a hollow connection between two parts of the body that shouldn’t be there.

For example, the fistula may connect the intestine to the skin of the buttocks or the vagina. A fistula can sometimes be a complication of surgery.

The fistula may look like a bump or boil and be very painful. Stool or fluid may drain from the opening.

Treatment for a fistula includes antibiotics or other medications. Closing a severe fistula may require surgery.

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These painful sores form inside your mouth and cause pain when you eat or talk. Canker sores result from poor vitamin and mineral absorption in your GI tract from Crohn’s disease.

You may notice canker sores most when you are having a flare. Managing your Crohn’s flares can help relieve them. An over-the-counter canker sore medication like Orajel will help to relieve the pain until they heal.

Small purpura on the legs may be due to leukocytoclastic vasculitis, which is inflammation of the small blood vessels in the legs, per 2022 research.

They may appear as red or purple spots on light skin or black or brown spots on dark skin. This condition affects a small number of people with irritable bowel disease (IBD) and other autoimmune disorders.

The spots may be itchy or painful. They should heal within a few weeks. Doctors treat this condition with corticosteroids and drugs that suppress the immune system.

Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita is a disorder of the immune system that causes blisters to form on injured skin. The most common sites for these blisters are the hands, feet, knees, elbows, and ankles. When the blisters heal, they leave scars behind.

Doctors treat this condition with corticosteroids, drugs like dapsone that reduce inflammation, and medications that suppress the immune system. People who have these blisters need to be very careful and wear protective gear when they play sports or do other physical activities in order to avoid injury.

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This skin disease causes red, flaky patches to appear on the skin. Like Crohn’s disease, psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. This happens when the immune system overreacts and causes skin cells to multiply too quickly, and those excess cells build up on the skin.

People with Crohn’s disease are more likely to develop psoriasis. Two biologic drugs — infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira) — treat both conditions.

Vitiligo causes patches of skin to lose color. It happens when skin cells that produce the pigment melanin die or stop working.

In rare cases, vitiligo can occur with Crohn’s disease, according to 2017 research. If you have cosmetic concerns, makeup can cover up the affected patches. Medications are also available to even out skin tone.

Small, painful bumps on the arms, neck, head, or torso are a sign of Sweet’s syndrome. The bumps may appear red on light skin and black or brown on dark skin. They may also be more difficult to see on dark skin, per 2017 research.

This skin condition is rare overall, but it can affect people with Crohn’s disease. Other symptoms may include a headache, body pain, and a general feeling of being unwell, according to 2019 research. Corticosteroid pills are the main treatment.

People with Crohn’s disease have an increased risk of melanoma, which is further increased with the use of biologics.

Thiopurines are immunosuppressant drugs that are used to treat IBDs, including Crohn’s. People taking thiopurines also have a risk of nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Are Crohn’s and eczema related?

Research suggests there may be a link between IBDs such as Crohn’s and eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis.

A 2020 review that looked at data for nearly 100 million people found that a significant number of those with an IBD also had eczema. However, a 2021 study suggested that people with eczema might be more likely to have ulcerative colitis but not Crohn’s.

More research is needed.

How do you get rid of Crohn’s rash?

Treatment can improve the symptoms of a Crohn’s rash, but it cannot cure it. Options will depend on the type of skin concern you have. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, treatment may include corticosteroids, antibiotics, light therapy, or methotrexate and other medications for treating the underlying disease.

Does Crohn’s have a cobblestone appearance?

The intestines of a person with Crohn’s may have a cobblestone appearance, due to ulcers forming in the gut, per 2016 research. A doctor can see this during an endoscopy, but it will not be visible to the person with Crohn’s.

Report any new skin symptoms, painful bumps, or sores to the doctor who treats your Crohn’s disease. Your doctor can either treat these issues directly or refer you to a dermatologist for treatment.