Perichondritis consists of inflammation of the thin layer of connective tissue which surrounds cartilage. One of the commonest varieties affects the ear and is given the medical name auricular perichondritis. This consists of infection of the pinna due to a breach of the skin. This can be caused by an injury or surgery to the ear.
Ear piercing is one of the commonest causes. Treatment of the condition requires antibiotics. Without adequate treatment an abscess my form and pus may accumulate. This may need to be drained for the problem to settle down. In severe cases some of the tissue may become so severely damaged that surgery is required to cut it away. This is called debridement. The patient may end up with cauliflower ear. This is when the cartilage is damaged and then scars and becomes misshapen. The name comes from the whiteness of the skin which loses some of its blood supply due to pressure on the skin from the deformity.
Sometimes damage to the ear can be repaired but in other cases plastic surgery may not be of any benefit.
Causes include the procedure being carried out by piercing practitioners who are not qualified. Unfortunately qualified people can still be careless about sterilising their needles between patients. Other causes include infection with staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas aeruginosa. Not cleaning the area of the piercing can also be to blame. Some people are at higher risk than others when it comes to the condition. These people should think twice before considering piercings. People with diabetes, a history of infections occurring easily, those on a steroid and people sensitive to nickel are all at risk. Piercings in the upper part of the ear are also more likely to become infected.
Symptoms include swelling and redness of the affected part of the ear. It may become sore, painful and itchy. In severe cases the individual may become unwell with a fever, nausea and vomiting. They may be off their food and become dehydrated. Signs of sepsis of sepsis may develop.