Cauliflower ear is a deformity of the outer part of the ear. It is caused by blunt trauma such as that which occurs during a boxing match. It can be prevented easily by wearing the correct type of protective headgear.
The signs and symptoms of the condition vary with the severity of the injury. As it is caused by a blow, the symptoms are related to this. These may include pain, swelling, bruising and deformity of the outer ear. A haematoma may be visible under the skin. This is a localised collection of blood which need to be drained.
Severe cauliflower ear can cause loss of hearing by distorting the opening to the ear canal. Ringing in the ear may also occur as a result of trauma to the ear. There may be other associated signs and symptoms due to the individual having a blow to the head. These include headaches, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting. In cases of severe head injury then maybe unconsciousness, seizures and coma.
The bleeding strips the outer layer of skin away from the underlying cartilage. As a result it may die, resulting in permanent deformity of the ear. This is because as the cartilage heals it may contract and scar. This can pull it out of shape.
An operation may be possible to correct the deformity of the ear, but prevention is clearly better than cure. Simply wearing the right protective headgear during a boxing match or rugby match may be enough to prevent this condition. If trauma to the ear occurs and a haematoma forms, it is important for the individual to seek medical advice.
A doctor would be able to drain the haematoma and pack the ear. Packing is necessary to prevent the blood reaccumulating. Once the blood has been drained it is possible for rebleeding to occur. This could lead to deformity. Packing their ear with gauze and strapping it up raises the pressure in the ear and prevents the blood reaccumulating.
Please do not use this article as medical advice, it is for interest only. If you have an injury to your head, ear or have any medical concerns you must consult a doctor.
Dr Toby Bateson, MD of ZenPlugs