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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Relapsing polychondritis

Other Names for this Disease
  • Chronic atrophic polychondritis
  • Recurrent polychondritis
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What are the signs and symptoms of relapsing polychondritis?

Relapsing polychondritis (RP) has been associated with a wide variety of conditions, signs and symptoms. Individuals with RP generally have a sudden onset of symptoms, typically involving the external ear and experiencing pain, swelling, redness and tenderness. Episodes may last a few days or weeks and typically resolve with or without treatment. The pinna usually loses firmness and becomes floppy; hearing impairment may also occur. Inflammation of the inner ear may also cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and/or ataxia. The second most common finding is joint pain with or without arthritis. About a third of affected individuals have inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) and autoimmune rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Ocular (eye) findings occur in about 60% and may include inflammation or irritation of various parts of the eye(s) and/or other findings. Respiratory symptoms and non-specific skin disorders (present in about 50% of affected individuals) are also common. Other findings that have been reported, but occur less commonly, include neurological abnormalities, cardiovascular (heart) manifestations and renal disease; renal disease typically indicates a worse prognosis. Other conditions reportedly associated with RP include hematological disease (including Hodgkin's lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes and others); gastrointestinal disorders (including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and others); endocrine diseases (including diabetes mellitus type 1 and thyroid disorders) and others. RP is generally progressive, and many individuals have persistent symptoms in between flares. Most affected individuals develop some degree of disability over time.[1]
Last updated: 12/19/2011

  1. Alexandros A. Drosos. Relapsing polychondritis. Orphanet Encyclopedia. October 2004; Accessed 12/19/2011.