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Relapsing Polychondritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What Is Relapsing Polychondritis?

Relapsing Polychondritis is a rare chronic cartilage disorder in which the cartilage of different tissues of the body gets inflamed frequently. Some of the cartilages which get inflamed are present in the tissues of the ears, nose, spine, and trachea. Relapsing Polychondritis can also affect the eyes, heart and even the blood vessels of the body. Relapsing Polychondritis at times is also known by the name of Red Ear Syndrome.

Relapsing Polychondritis

What Are The Causes Of Relapsing Polychondritis?

The root cause of Relapsing Polychondritis is till date unknown, but it is suggested that it may be caused due to a compromised immune system of the body causing recurrent inflammation of various tissues of the body.

Facts About Relapsing Polychondritis

Some Of The Common Facts About Relapsing Polychondritis Are:

  • It is chronic disorder of the cartilage
  • In Relapsing Polychondritis there is recurrent inflammation of the cartilage which may at times be painful.
  • Most commonly affected are the cartilages of the ears, nose, and joints.
  • There is no definitive way of definitively diagnosis Relapsing Polychondritis
  • Treatment methods involve utilization of cortisone.

What Are The Symptoms Of Relapsing Polychondritis?

What Are The Symptoms Of Relapsing Polychondritis?

Relapsing Polychondritis has a tendency to cause pain in the inflamed tissue all of a sudden as soon as an individual gets the disease. The most common symptoms experienced by the individual are excruciating pain, redness, swelling, and palpable tenderness in the ears, nose, throat, or eyes. It an also affect the joints. Other symptoms observed may be fever, lethargy, and unintentional weight loss. Since Relapsing Polychondritis causes significant cartilage damage there may be deformity of the ears or the nose which can cause hearing impairment, balance problems, etc. If the trachea is involved, then there may be throat pain or breathing problems. When the joints are involved in Relapsing Polychondritis, then there may be development of arthritis causing pain, swelling as well as joint stiffness to include the hands, knees, wrists, and the lower extremities. There may also be significant vision impairment due to Relapsing Polychondritis.

How Is Relapsing Polychondritis Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Relapsing Polychondritis, the treating physician will conduct a detailed physical examination which will reveal distinct features of involvement of cartilage in the symptoms which will clearly point to Relapsing Polychondritis. There is thus far no definitive test to diagnose Relapsing Polychondritis, but a CBC will reveal abnormally elevated ESR, CRP etc. A tissue cartilage biopsy can also be conducted which will reveal inflammation in cases of Relapsing Polychondritis.

What Are Treatments For Relapsing Polychondritis?

For mild forms of Relapsing Polychondritis, using NSAIDs has shown to be beneficial to include medications like Motrin, Naprosyn etc. in order to control inflammation. Corticosteroids are also at times used generally in relatively high dosages to control inflammation in cases when the eyes and the respiratory system are involved but steroid usage comes with its inherent risks. A medication called methotrexate has shown some benefit for treatment of Relapsing Polychondritis when used in combination with steroids.
Some of the other medications that have been beneficial albeit the success rate is questionable and only very small population has been benefited by these medications are Cytoxan, Imuran, Cuprimine, and cyclosporin.


  1. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD): NORD provides comprehensive information on rare diseases, including Relapsing Polychondritis, its symptoms, and treatments. Website: https://rarediseases.org/
  2. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic offers detailed information on Relapsing Polychondritis, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/
  3. American College of Rheumatology (ACR): ACR provides professional guidelines and resources related to autoimmune disorders, including Relapsing Polychondritis. Website: https://www.rheumatology.org/
  4. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS): NIAMS offers research-based information on musculoskeletal and skin diseases, including Relapsing Polychondritis. Website: https://www.niams.nih.gov/
  5. British Society for Rheumatology (BSR): BSR provides resources and guidelines on rheumatologic disorders, including Relapsing Polychondritis. Website: https://www.rheumatology.org.uk/
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 26, 2023

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