William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Catherine Burt Driver, MD
Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.
- Relapsing polychondritis facts
- What is relapsing polychondritis?
- What causes relapsing polychondritis?
- What are symptoms and signs of relapsing polychondritis?
- How is relapsing polychondritis diagnosed?
- Can relapsing polychondritis be associated with other diseases?
- What medications are used to treat relapsing polychondritis?
- What is the long-term outlook (prognosis) for patients with relapsing polychondritis?
- Find a local Rheumatologist in your town
Relapsing polychondritis facts
- Relapsing polychondritis is an uncommon, chronic disorder of the cartilage.
- Relapsing polychondritis is characterized by recurrent episodes of painful inflammation.
- Relapsing polychondritis can involve all types of cartilage.
- Typical cartilage tissues affected include the ears, nose, and joints.
- There is no one specific test for diagnosing relapsing polychondritis.
- Treatment often involves cortisone-related medications.
- The course of symptoms for patients is often unpredictable.
What is relapsing polychondritis?
Relapsing polychondritis is an uncommon, chronic disorder of the cartilage that is characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation of the cartilage of various tissues of the body. Chondritis means inflammation of cartilage. Tissues containing cartilage that can become inflamed include the ears, nose, joints, spine, and windpipe (trachea). The eyes, heart, and blood vessels, which have a biochemical makeup similar to that of cartilage, can also be affected. Relapsing polychondritis is sometimes called the red ear syndrome.
What causes relapsing polychondritis?
The cause of relapsing polychondritis is unknown. It is suspected that this condition is caused by "autoimmunity." Autoimmunity is characterized by a misdirected immune system. This results in inflammation in various tissues of the body.
What are symptoms and signs of relapsing polychondritis?
Typically, relapsing polychondritis causes sudden pain in the inflamed tissue at the onset of the disease. Common symptoms are pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness in one or both ears, the nose, throat, joints, and/or eyes. The lobe of the ear is not involved. Fever, fatigue, and weight loss often develop.
Inflammation of the ears and nose can cause deformity (saddle nose deformity and floppy ears) from weakened cartilage. Impaired hearing, balance, and nausea can be caused by inner ear inflammation.
Inflammation of the windpipe or trachea can lead to throat pain, hoarseness, and breathing difficulty. This is a potentially dangerous area of inflammation in patients with relapsing polychondritis and can require assisted breathing methods when severe.
Joint inflammation (arthritis) can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints, including of the hands, knees, ankles, wrists, and feet.
Eye inflammation can be mild or severe and can damage vision. Cataracts can be caused by the inflammation or from the cortisone used to treat relapsing polychondritis (see below).
Other tissues that can develop inflammation include the aorta (which can lead to aneurysm or aortic valve weakness), tissues in or around the heart (myocarditis and pericarditis), the skin (vasculitis), and the nerves from the brain (cranial nerve palsies).
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