Sometimes, perichondritis can lead to an infection of the cartilage, known as chondritis, which can lead to permanent damage of the ear’s structure.
You might have heard it being referred as ‘cauliflower ear’ and is quite common in boxers or rugby players who play contact sports.
Causes of perichondritis
Our ears are made of cartilage and covered with a thin layer of skin tissue called the perichondrium. Perichondritis happens when this layer becomes infected, usually after injury to the ear, as well as:
A cut on the ear
Contact sports (like rugby or boxing)
Ear piercing (particularly those high up on the ear rather than the earlobe)
Certain inflammatory diseases
Perichondritis will be diagnosed by your GP during an examination of the ear. They’ll ask you a few questions that may help to determine the cause, like if you play contact sports, or if you’ve recently had an ear piercing.
Early treatment is important in order to reduce the chance of the infection spreading to the cartilage which could damage the structure of the ear.
If you think you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of perichondritis, you should see your GP as soon as possible.
Depending on the extent of the infection, they’ll usually prescribe a course of antibiotics. If it’s caused by a piercing or splinter in the ear, it will need to be removed.
With prompt and effective treatment, your ear can return to its normal state and make a full recovery.
If the infection spreads to the cartilage, there may be further complications which can be permanent. So it’s important that you seek medical advice as soon as possible.