Crohn’s Disease is one common type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Unlike Ulcerative Colitis, which occurs in the large intestine, Crohn’s Disease may develop anywhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract but occurs most commonly in the small intestine. Also, Ulcerative Colitis impacts a continuous section of the large intestine, while Crohn’s Disease can occur in small sections or patches. Further, Crohn’s Disease can impact areas of the body outside the GI tract, such as the eyes, skin, and joints. These symptoms are classified as extraintestinal manifestations (EIM).
The most common symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are caused by the inflammation of the small intestine. Crohn’s Disease may present as abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and/or unexplained weight loss. This inflammation can also impact the absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin D. Crohn’s Disease is a chronic disease, and it impacts each person differently. Also, these symptoms may change or be absent as the disease vacillates between active phases with flares and remission phases.
The inflammation from Crohn’s Disease can also affect the eyes and the skin. Inflammation of certain parts of the eye can cause eye pain and redness and may be an emergency. Up to a third of patients with Crohn’s Disease will also develop skin conditions, including nodules to psoriasis. In most cases, the treatment for these skin conditions is to treat the underlying inflammation from Crohn’s Disease.
Another group of extraintestinal manifestations of Crohn’s Disease affects the musculoskeletal system. The chronic inflammation can lead to arthritis. Arthritis usually affects the larger joints in these cases. Crohn’s Disease can also cause bone loss, and when this bone loss is coupled with decreased Vitamin D absorption, the risk of osteoporosis increases.