- Rheumatoid Arthritis Slideshow Pictures
- Joint-Friendly Exercises to Reduce RA Pain Slideshow
- Take the RA Quiz
- Patient Comments: Relapsing Polychondritis - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Relapsing Polychondritis - Medications and Treatment
- Find a local Rheumatologist in your town
- Relapsing polychondritis facts
- What is relapsing polychondritis?
- What causes relapsing polychondritis?
- What are symptoms and signs of relapsing polychondritis?
- How is relapsing polychondritis diagnosed?
- Can relapsing polychondritis be associated with other diseases?
- What medications are used to treat relapsing polychondritis?
- What is the long-term outlook (prognosis) for patients with relapsing polychondritis?
Relapsing polychondritis facts
- Relapsing polychondritis is an uncommon, chronic disorder of the cartilage.
- Relapsing polychondritis is characterized by recurrent episodes of painful inflammation.
- Relapsing polychondritis can involve all types of cartilage.
- Typical cartilage tissues affected include the ears, nose, and joints.
- There is no one specific test for diagnosing relapsing polychondritis.
- Treatment often involves cortisone-related medications.
- The course of symptoms for patients is often unpredictable.
What is relapsing polychondritis?
Relapsing polychondritis is an uncommon, chronic disorder of the cartilage that is characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation of the cartilage of various tissues of the body. Chondritis means inflammation of cartilage. Tissues containing cartilage that can become inflamed include the ears, nose, joints, spine, and windpipe (trachea). The eyes, heart, and blood vessels, which have a biochemical makeup similar to that of cartilage, can also be affected. Relapsing polychondritis is sometimes called the red ear syndrome.
What causes relapsing polychondritis?
The cause of relapsing polychondritis is unknown. It is suspected that this condition is caused by "autoimmunity." Autoimmunity is characterized by a misdirected immune system. This results in inflammation in various tissues of the body.
What are symptoms and signs of relapsing polychondritis?
Typically, relapsing polychondritis causes sudden pain in the inflamed tissue at the onset of the disease. Common symptoms are pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness in one or both ears, the nose, throat, joints, and/or eyes. The lobe of the ear is not involved. Fever, fatigue, and weight loss often develop.
Inflammation of the windpipe or trachea can lead to throat pain, hoarseness, and breathing difficulty. This is a potentially dangerous area of inflammation in patients with relapsing polychondritis and can require assisted breathing methods when severe.
Eye inflammation can be mild or severe and can damage vision. Cataracts can be caused by the inflammation or from the cortisone used to treat relapsing polychondritis (see below).
Other tissues that can develop inflammation include the aorta (which can lead to aneurysm or aortic valve weakness), tissues in or around the heart (myocarditis and pericarditis), the skin (vasculitis), and the nerves from the brain (cranial nerve palsies).