Not just the gut: Watch out for these 4 symptoms of Crohn’s disease

People who live with Crohn’s disease know all too well the many ways it can affect the body. But if you haven’t been diagnosed with this digestive disease, there’s something that might surprise you. Not only can it cause GI pain and problems, it can also have a major impact on other parts of your body–even your eyes. 

How is that possible? Inflammation. In the same way Crohn’s-related inflammation can attack and damage the digestive tract, it can attack other parts of the body, too.

About 25-40 percent of people who have a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohn’s deal with these complications. They are often referred to as EIMs, or extraintestinal manifestations, which refer to complications that occur outside the gut. Here are four outside-the-gut Crohn’s symptoms to watch for. 

  1. Crohn’s disease skin lesions: Crohn’s disease can cause a variety of skin lesions, including Erythema nodosum and pyoderma gangrenosum. One type shows up as painful red welts on the legs and shins. Other skin lesions may look like bruises or appear as open sores (also known as ulcers) or rashes. 
  2. Crohn’s disease mouth ulcers: If you have Crohn’s disease, ulcers can form inside your mouth. Sometimes these open sores can be painful or plentiful enough to affect your ability to eat. 
  3.  Crohn’s disease joint pain: If you experience joint pain and swelling, especially in your knees, elbows, and wrists it could be another manifestation of Crohn’s or an indication that an oncoming flare is rearing its ugly head. 
  4. Crohn’s disease eye problems: Crohn’s can attack the eyes in the form of episcleritis and iritis, and the white part of the eye is particularly vulnerable. Other eye problems can cause pain and blurred vision. Like the other symptoms described above, eye problems are more likely to happen if you are having a flare or if your Crohn’s is severe.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and any of these non-digestive symptoms sound familiar, make an appointment with your GI provider as soon as possible to address the issue so it doesn’t become worse. If you haven’t been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but these symptoms are happening to you, it’s also important to talk to a GI expert who can diagnose you and get you the care you need. 

Source: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation

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