Cutaneous manifestations of inflammatory bowel disease

Author: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, September 2015.

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

There are two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease. Both are characterised by abdominal pain and diarrhoea, sometimes with bleeding.

  • Ulcerative colitis typically involves only the colon (large bowel)
  • Crohn disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the lips to the anus with scattered lesions. Crohn disease is characterised on pathology by non-caseating granulomas but these are not always found on bowel biopsy.

Although the two diseases are quite separate, accurate diagnosis can sometimes be difficult especially in the early stages. Therefore involvement of other organs can help to make the distinction.

Skin disease and IBD

DermNet NZ includes the following pages about inflammatory bowel disease:

Other disorders associated with inflammatory bowel disease

Some nonspecific conditions occur more commonly with IBD than in the general population, but also do occur without bowel disease, and the pathology is not diagnostic for the bowel disease.

These include:

IBD can lead to complications of malabsorption caused by the bowel inflammation or surgery, resulting in deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.

Skin reactions may also arise to medications prescribed for IBD.


Related Information

On DermNet NZ

Other websites

Medscape Reference:

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