Relapsing Polychondritis - Symptoms

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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 ears and nose can cause deformity (saddle nose deformity and floppy ears) from weakened cartilage. Impaired hearing, balance, and nausea can be caused by inner ear inflammation.

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.

Joint inflammation (arthritis) can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints, including of the hands, knees, ankles, wrists, and feet.

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).

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Comment from: Ireland, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 03

I am a healthcare professional and took the hepatitis vaccine when it was a live virus. Five of us who took the vaccine became severely ill two days after getting the vaccine. We ran high fevers, had severe joint pain, and extreme nausea. Six months later I had a 30-pound weight loss, perirectal abscess and hepatitis. I was in the hospital for seven days with a bilirubin level of 32. I continued to be ill for several months. Then I experienced inflamed ears, joint pain, extreme weakness, and fatigue. I went to doctor after doctor for years and thought I was crazy. I researched and after 15 years found a doctor who was a genius and told me my diagnosis was correct. After years of tests, MRIs, and spinal taps, I was sent to a rheumatologist. I was his first patient with this dreadful disease. I was put on Plaquenil and prednisone. I am currently on purified fish oil, turmeric, and tart cherry. I continue to take Plaqueni and prednisone. It has been a long and difficult road. I have remained optimistic, but my life is far from normal. I have retired from my nursing career which I loved. I have had two hip replacements and thoracic laminectomy. I still remain negative for all types of hepatitis. I just wished someone would have listened from the beginning about the vaccine. You know your body and it seems that if you are knowledgeable in your area you can be shoved under a rug. I have relapses and it affects my husband, children and my grandchildren. I pray for those who have this awful disease. I continue to push forward, keep a healthy weight, and maintain exercise. I wish there was a cure for the fatigue; it's devastating when you want to live life so badly. Please listen to your patients.

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Comment from: April, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 09

With relapsing polychondritis, I have ear and facial swelling, fatigue, diarrhea, arthritis, pain in the back, ribs, knees, and arms.

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