What Is Perichondritis?
an infection of the outer ear cartilage. The most common cause of
perichondritis is ear piercing. Infection usually develops about four weeks
after the piercing. The ear grows red, is painful, and swells as the infection
worsens. The majority of cases result from poorly trained professionals and
unsanitary piercing equipment.
Treatment of the inflammation requires antibiotics. If
antibiotics are not effective, the ear may fill with fluid, and the fluid must
be drained to avoid further damage. Surgery may have to be performed to remove
dead or decaying parts of the ear. Serious complications, such as human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can occur from using unsterilized equipment.
Quick treatment with antibiotics can stop permanent damage.
The more severe cases that require surgery can leave the ear with a
“cauliflower deformity.” Trauma to the ear may be permanent and beyond the
scope of plastic surgery.
Causes of Perihondritis
Perichondritis is often related to unqualified piercing
professionals. Even those who are qualified may be lax about sterilization of
needles between procedures.
- staphylococcus aureus infection
- pseudomonas aeruginosa infection
- bacteria transmitted by reusing ear-piercing
- failure to keep piercing area clean
certain risk factors should either avoid or carefully consider before getting
their ears pierced. Risk factors include:
- history of developing infections easily
- taking a corticosteroid medication
- higher piercings of the upper cartilage are more
likely to become infected
- sensitivity to nickel
Symptoms of Perichondritis
Perichondritis symptoms typically begin about four weeks
after the piercing. The ear becomes inflamed by the infection. Touching or
hitting the ear can become extremely painful as the infection progresses.
How Is Perichondritis Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of perichondritis is made by clinical
observation. Doctors must decide if the infection is caused by perichondritis
or cellulitis (skin infection).
Skin infections are more common in the earlobe. Unlike the
outer ear, the lobe of the ear contains no cartilage. Perichondritis is an
infection of the cartilage, while an earlobe infection is cellulitis.
The inflammation of the ear is the best indicator of
perichondritis. The area will be red and painful to touch. As it worsens,
swelling will become apparent, and you may develop a fever.
The first course of treatment for early perichondritis is
the use of antibiotics. Doctors will prescribe a course of antibiotics that may
antibiotic prescribed only for those age 18 and older to prevent damage to
antibiotic chosen if ciprofloxacin fails or cannot be prescribed
perichondritis requires antibiotics and treatment of the infected area. These
the ear is drained of fluid from the infection
the dead tissue of the infection is removed from the ear to improve healing
in extreme cases, a part of the ear must be removed
Early treatment with antibiotics typically clears the
infection so there is no change in the ear’s appearance. Untreated infections
may cause the ear to swell with fluid. An abscess may form. Ear abscesses are pockets in the skin
filled with dead cells and fluid. Draining the abscess can leave permanent
scarring on the ear.
In extreme cases, a deformity known as cauliflower ear may
result. The ear becomes misshapen and resembles a head of cauliflower. Once the
damage has occurred, reconstruction by plastic surgery becomes problematic.
Complications of Perichondritis
complications can result from unsterilized or reused equipment. They can leave
a person with permanent conditions, such as:
- hepatitis B
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)