Relapsing Polychondritis is a chronic disorder of the cartilage that is relatively uncommon. It is often characterized by bouts of painful inflammation in various parts of the body, which can recur from time to time. Chondritis is cartilage inflammation; poly means that it can occur in multiple parts of the body – often simultaneously.
Not only is cartilage affected but there are other parts of the body, such as the eyes, blood vessels and heart with a biochemical makeup which is similar in nature to cartilage. As a result, many of these areas can also be affected during the diagnosis of Relapsing Polychondritis. Depending upon where a patient is experiencing the cartilage inflammation, it has been known as red ear syndrome in some medical communities.
It’s important that you know about the causes, the symptoms as well as the treatment of this disease. Because it is not very common, it is often misdiagnosed as arthritis or various other health conditions that are actually a product of being diagnosed with Relapsing Polychondritis. The more you know about the medical condition, the more you can be on the lookout for symptoms and seek help if it is something that may be affecting you or the health of a loved one.
Relapsing Polychondritis Causes
What causes Relapsing Polychondritis is not known at this time. Many doctors suspect the disease is a result of autoimmunity, which is characterized by misdirection of the immune system. This then causes the immune system to produce antibodies which in turn attacks the cartilage and tissues in the body.
There are some other health conditions that can be associated with Relapsing Polychondritis. This includes rheumatoid arthritis, systematic lupus, polyarteritisnodosa, vasculitis as well as a number of other diseases associated with connective tissues. When you visit a doctor, he or she will usually run tests to see if you show signs of these other diseases to determine how you will need to be treated as well as finding a correlation that can begin to see how you obtained the disease in the first place.
The Symptoms of Relapsing Polychondritis
There are many symptoms that you need to be aware of in terms of Relapsing Polychondritis. Some people will experience the symptoms immediately while others will take more time to lead into them.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should contact a doctor to be tested for Relapsing Polychondritis:
- - Sudden pain
- - Fever
- - Fatigue
- - Weight loss
In addition to those symptoms, you may also experience a pain, redness, swelling or even tenderness in the eyes, nose, throat, ears or even joints. The inflammation that occurs in the nose or ears may cause a deformity as a result of a weakening of the cartilage. As a result, you may end up with the deformity known as saddle nose or floppy ears. There are treatments, which is why it’s important to acknowledge the symptoms as soon as they appear.
Many of the symptoms experienced can lead to a number of other health problems. Arthritis and cataracts are common side effects of being diagnosed with Relapsing Polychondritis.
While not as common, there are other tissues which can be inflamed as well, which includes around the aorta and other tissues throughout the heart as well as the nerves of the brain. If left untreated, it can lead to an aortic valve weakness, an aneurysm or cranial nerve palsies.
The number of areas of the body that are affected by Relapsing Polychondritis will vary from person to person, as will the severity. Due to it being relapsing, some people can go months or years between episodes of inflammation and there is not always rhyme or reason to when they occur.
The long-term effects of Relapsing Polychondritis will also vary due to how the severity varies between patients. Depending on the extent of the damage, it can be life threatening, especially if there is no formal treatment taking place when the episodes occur.
Treatment of Polychondritis
One of the main problems with the treatment of Relapsing Polychondritis is that there is no one test that is used for diagnosing the condition. The doctor will likely recognize the patterns of cartilage throughout the physical exam as well as patient history. Blood tests can be used to show an inflammation, as the ESR elevation will indicate it as well the C-reactive protein being abnormal if the disease is active. It may also be possible to biopsy tissue in order to determine if there is in fact an inflammation.
The treatment of Relapsing Polychondritis will greatly depend upon the body parts being affected. Some of the more common areas that are affected by the disease include:
- - Eyes
- - Ears
- - Nose
- - Throat/trachea
- - Joints
- - Heart
Those who have a milder version of the disease are usually prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often referred to as NSAIDs. This can include such medications as naproxen or ibuprofen. Depending on the level of inflammation, cortisone-medications that contain steroids, such as prednisolene and prednisone are usually prescribed.
There are also maintenance treatments that can be prescribed. Since there is still little known about this disease and it is not common, there are doctors who have tried other medications with some success as well. Patients have been prescribed such things as dapsone, cyclosporine and others.
If the cartilage has broken down in the nose or in other parts of the body, it may also require plastic surgery so that it doesn’t affect normal bodily functions, including breathing and swallowing.
Relapsing Polychondritis has the potential to be dangerous and even life-threatening. While the treatment can include cortisone-related prescriptions, it is not always the case based upon where the inflammation lies.
The best thing for anyone with Relapsing Polychondritis is to see a doctor to begin a course of treatment. This will also include regular maintenance to determine if the treatment is working or if there needs to be changes to the medication given. With regular maintenance, most doctors will be able to stabilize the progress of the disease so that a person isn’t losing function of their body, whether it has to do with the breaking down of the trachea, loss of sight in the eyes of deterioration of the joints, limiting mobility.
This is a very serious disease, so anyone who is showing signs of tissue or cartilage degeneration needs to visit a doctor immediately for diagnostic testing and diagnosis. Additionally, some doctors will be more experienced with the disease than others, so it may be necessary to seek a second opinion prior to beginning a course for treatment.