Relapsing Polychondritis: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 8/31/2021

Relapsing polychondritis is a chronic disorder of the cartilage in the body that is characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation. Chondritis means inflammation of cartilage, and tissues containing cartilage that can be affected by the condition include the ears, nose, joints, spine, and windpipe (trachea). Other organs, including the eyes, heart, and blood vessels, have biochemical characteristics similar to cartilage and can also be affected.

Signs and symptoms of relapsing polychondritis are related to the inflamed cartilage and can include

  • redness,
  • swelling, and
  • pain in the ears, nose, throat, or joints.

Other associated signs and symptoms can include

Tissue damage can cause deformity of the ears and nose, and inflammation of the trachea can cause shortness of breath and wheezing. Joint inflammation may lead to swelling and pain in the affected joints.

Cause of relapsing polychondritis

While the exact cause is not understood, relapsing polychondritis is believed to be an autoimmune disease.

Other relapsing polychondritis symptoms and signs


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.