Ulcerative Colitis Disease can affect more than just your gastrointestinal tract — it can actually affect your skin, too.
Ulcerative Colitis Disease affects more than just your gastrointestinal tract. The same inflammation that triggers disease in your intestines can manifest all over the body — including your skin.Up to 15 percent of people with inflammatory bowel disease also experience skin problems, according to a review published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in August 2015. Your first line of defense against these skin problems is to get your Ulcerative Colitis Disease under control, says Matilda Hagan, MD, an inflammatory bowel disease specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.If you do notice any skin changes, it’s important to tell your doctor right away so you can be seen by a dermatologist, says Kally Papantoniou, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Ulcerative Colitis Disease and Your Skin
Skin conditions that you may be susceptible to along with Ulcerative Colitis Disease include:
1. Erythema nodosum. This rash consists of painful, raised bumps that are usually found on the legs, Dr. Hagan says. It tends to develop when Ulcerative Colitis Disease is active, she adds. You may also run a fever, have joint pain, and generally feel ill, according to the National Library of Medicine.Treatment options include pain-relieving medications, steroids (taken either by mouth or injection), and potassium iodide solution to clear up the bumps.“A cool compress can also help alleviate discomfort and reduce inflammation,” Dr. Papantoniou says, adding that elevating your legs may help lessen swelling and tenderness. Compression stockings may help as well, but have your doctor evaluate you for vascular disease before using them, she cautions.Symptoms usually go away within about six weeks, but they may come back.
2. Pyoderma gangrenosum. This rash, which spreads quickly, is made up of red or purple bumps or blisters. They eventually join together and form deep open sores (ulcers) with a blue or purple border, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).The ulcers can occur almost anywhere: “People can have them on their feet, making it difficult to walk,” Hagan says. “They can have them on their legs, or their stomachs.” Sometimes the rash develops around the site of an injury or surgical wound.Unlike erythema nodosum, this skin problem often appears when bowel disease is quiet, Hagan says. It also can be difficult to treat, she adds.“Pyoderma gangrenosum can leave terrible scars,” says Joaquin Brieva, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The condition requires sophisticated wound care by an expert team plus treatment for the underlying colitis.Treatments include medicines that target the skin or whole-body therapies, such as anti-inflammatory creams and steroid ointments; steroids pills or injections, which are sometimes injected directly into the ulcers; and medications that suppress the immune system.
3. Aphthous stomatitis. Also known as canker cores, these are white spots with a red base that are found in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue, Hagan says. Some people get them right before a flare, she adds.In people with Ulcerative Colitis Disease, canker sores are often larger than a centimeter and hang around longer than 2 weeks, Dr. Brieva says.Treatment includes tetracycline mouthwashes, steroid medications that are made to stick to the mouth and gums, and lidocaine, among other things, he adds.According to the National Library of Medicine, you can also try to:
Suck on something cold, like an ice pop.
Swish milk of magnesia around your mouth to coat the sore, and then spit it out.
Mix a half-cup of salt into a cup of water and rinse your mouth with an ounce of the mixture four times a day.
4. Pyoderma vegetans. This is a rare condition that appears as blisters, plaques, or patches around the groin and under the arms, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). Pyostomatitis vegetans is the same condition, but it occurs in the mouth, Brieva says. Treatment for this skin condition typically just involves treating the Ulcerative Colitis Disease itself.
5. Sweet’s syndrome. This is another rare skin complication linked to Ulcerative Colitis Disease , according to NORD. It comes with a fever and a rash made up of many tender red or bluish-red bumps or spots. They usually develop on the arms, legs, torso, face, or neck. Arthritis and eye inflammation are sometimes symptoms, too. Sweet’s syndrome is usually treated with steroids.
6. Clubbing. In this condition, the skin underneath your fingernails thickens and the fingertips become rounded and fat, like the tip of a drumstick, Brieva says. Your nails also curve over your fingertips. There’s no treatment for clubbing, according to the CCFA.