What is Perichondritis?

Did you know that you can categorize your ears into different parts? Three main ones, to be more specific. These are: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Each segment plays its own role in helping keep your ears healthy and allow you to hear.

Your outer ear includes your pinna or auricle, along with your ear canal. The outside part of your ear that you can see is what’s known as the pinna. It’s made of cartilage and 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: bacterial or infectious, 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:

  • Insect bites
  • Burns
  • 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?

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus causes bacterial perichondritis. People with this type of perichondritis commonly report the following symptoms:

  • 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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