leg with red bumps Erythema Nodosum

What's Going On With My Skin?

IBD is one strange disease, and when you think of Crohn’s disease, you probably think of severe abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and other horrific symptoms that tie closely with your digestive system.

The skin can be affected by IBD

However, who would have thought that the largest organ in your body, your skin, could also be terribly affected.

Achy joints with IBD

I will never forget when I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease back in 2011, I was not educated on the extra-intestinal manifestations that can occur. So when my joints first began to hurt, I thought maybe I injured myself or perhaps I was having an allergic reaction to something. A 21-year-old with achy joints? It must be something of that nature, right?

Swollen ankles in a Crohn's flare

When my ankles first swelled up, I thought I was having an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. I remember bike riding outside and got bit in the ankle by a mosquito. The next day both ankles swelled up to the size of pineapples and stayed that way for a while. I simply wore jeans until it went away, not knowing it was Crohn’s starting to flare.

How my eyes have been affected by IBD

The first time I experienced eye inflammation due to Crohn’s, I thought I simply didn’t clean my contacts well enough and had an infection due to negligence. I remember calling out sick from work that day because I literally could not open my eye and I was embarrassed.

Why do I have red dots on my legs in a flare?

But the one extra-intestinal manifestation that really scared me, and immediately sent alarms off in my head, was when I experienced erythema nodosum. It was just after I was diagnosed, so I was a newbie to this whole autoimmune disease thing.

I remember being home in bed trying to survive a severe flare. I was sleeping most of the day and was in so much pain that I couldn’t handle much stimulus from the outside world. So my blinds were shut, the tv was off, and I needed total silence 24/7 to get through the day.

This particular day, I remember running to the bathroom in agony for another round of morning sickness when I looked down at my legs while on the toilet and found them covered in small red dots. It looked like I had chickenpox.

The bumps from Erythema Nodosum were extremely painful

My initial reaction was: is this chickenpox? I had contracted the virus when I was a toddler and I thought it had somehow returned. But when I proceeded to touch the red bumps, I yelped in pain. Oh my goodness, did they hurt! The pain was unreal.

Again, in total denial, I went to touch another bump. The same reaction, I jumped and winced from the pain. And then I panicked because I was covered in these bumps from the hip down. What on earth is going on with my body!?

This was the only symptom that I immediately thought, this has to be Crohn’s. And sure enough, I went to the hospital and my doctor immediately told me it was erythema nodosum.

Erythema nodosum is indeed a symptom of Crohn’s disease. In laymen’s terms, it is skin inflammation and when you are flaring from Crohn’s. Well, your skin sometimes comes along for the ride. Erythema nodosum is typically found in the front of the shins and look like small, red bumps, however, mine was found on my thighs and buttocks as well.

If you experience this symptom and don’t know what it is, don’t panic. Understand that your body is extremely inflamed, and once you get your flare in control, your skin will also follow and heal. You won’t be stuck with it forever which was my initial fear.

How are steroids used to treat skin problems with IBD?

It wasn’t until I received IV steroid treatment in the ER that the bumps went away in a couple of days and goodness was I relieved. Just the slightest bump or tap to any of the spots resulted in the most awful pain.

So deep breaths. If you experience this symptom, call your doctor immediately and explain what you are experiencing and that you believe it may be Erythema Nodosum. But know you aren’t alone in dealing with this symptom, and it will go away once your flare is under control.

Have you ever had erythema nodosum? What was your experience like? Share below, it’s always nice to know that you aren’t alone.

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