What is Perichondritis?

Your ears are made up of a number of different parts. They can be categorized into three main parts: Your outer ear, your middle ear, and your inner ear. Each part plays its own role in helping you hear and keeping your ear healthy.

Your outer ear includes: the auricle or pinna, and your ear canal. The pinna is the outside part of your ear that is visible. It is made up of cartilage that is covered by skin. This cartilage is nourished by tissue, known as the perichondrium.

When this tissue becomes infected, the result can be perichondritis.

What is Perichondritis?

MSD Manual defines perichondritis as an “infection of the tissue covering the cartilage of the external part of the ear called the auricle (pinna).”

There are two main types of perichondritis: infectious or bacterial, and autoimmune. Perichondritis should be treated appropriately as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage to your ear.

What Causes Perichondritis?

Perichondritis can have a number of causes. These may include:

  • Burns
  • Insect bites
  • Injury
  • Surgery
  • A skin boil
  • An ear piercing, especially when done through the cartilage

People who have weakened immune systems or pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes may be at higher risk of developing perichondritis.

What are the Symptoms of Perichondritis?

Bacterial perichondritis is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. The most common symptoms reported by patients include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Discharge

In some cases, patients may also develop a fever.

How is Perichondritis Diagnosed?

To diagnose perichondritis, your primary healthcare physician will examine your ear. They will also get any relevant information on potential injuries or damage to the area.

Perichondritis can recur without appropriate treatment and preventative measures. If you are experiencing repeated perichondritis, speak to your physician. Without intervention, the perichondritis can cause permanent cosmetic damage to your ear.

How is Perichondritis Treated?

Treatment for perichondritis will depend on your doctor’s examination. If your doctor suspects a boil or abscess, they may make a small cut to allow the infection to drain. Your doctor will likely also prescribe you with antibiotics.

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