Perichondritis of the ear

Ear cartilage infection

Perichondritis or auricular perichondritis is an inflammation of the perichondrium, the connective tissue that encases our body's cartilage and nourishes it. This ear cartilage infection often develops in individuals with a weak immune system or those already suffering from other inflammatory disorders.  

Perichondritis: definition and symptoms

Perichondritis is the inflammation of the perichondrium of the ear. Also known as the auricle or pinna, the perichondrium is a very sensitive part of our ear, easily susceptible to dermatoses, trauma, insect bites and infections. As a result, this type of inflammation or ear cartilage infection is often secondary to other ear conditions, such as otitis.

If you are suffering from auricular perichondritis, the first symptoms to appear will be redness, pain, swelling of the ear cartilage and, in some cases, fever.    

Perichondritis or polychondritis?

Although similar in some aspects, perichondritis and polychondritis are not the same thing. Polychondritis is a rare and recurrent multisystem disease, in which the body’s cartilage becomes inflamed. It can affect multiple areas of the body, including the articular, ocular and cardiovascular systems, and may be acute, recurrent or chronic.

What are main causes of perichondritis?

The risk of contracting perichondritis is higher in people with systemic inflammatory diseases and with a debilitated immune system, as well as people with diabetes and granulomatosis with polyangiitis (or Wegener's granulomatosis).

Given that it is an inflammation of the auricle or pinna, an improperly treated otitis externa is one of the most common causes of perichondritis. However, it can also be triggered by the following factors: 

  • traumas; 
  • insect bites; 
  • burns; 
  • cartilage perforations; 
  • ear piercing infections; 
  • pimples in ear; 
  • shingles; 
  • ear surgeries.

Can perichondritis lead to hearing loss?

Perichondritis can last a long time and should never be underestimated, as it can easily spread to surrounding tissues. In the most severe cases, it may also affect a person’s hearing: cause sensorineural hearing loss, either temporarily or permanently, or worsen existing cases of sensorineural hearing loss, a condition most commonly related to aging.

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Perichondritis treatments and therapy

We will now briefly discuss how to treat perichondritis. In most cases, the key is choosing a treatment that can effectively treat several areas at once, reduce the inflammation, treat what triggered it and alleviate any pain. 

If perichondritis is caused by an infection, the most common perichondritis treatments are:

  • antibiotic drugs;
  • incision and drainage of abscesses; 
  • corticotherapy to minimize pain; 
  • ear surgery, for more severe cases.

Regardless of the treatment chosen, it is important to begin treatment promptly and choose the right antibiotic based on the results of your clinical examinations. 

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