Relapsing polychondritis

Author: Dr Mark Duffill, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2008.

What is relapsing polychondritis?

Relapsing polychondritis is a rare autoimmune disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of inflammation and destruction of cartilaginous tissues.

What are the symptoms of relapsing polychondritis?

Relapsing polychondritis most commonly presents as inflammation of the cartilage of the ears and nose.

What is the cause of relapsing polychondritis?

Antibodies to type 2 collagen in cartilage are found. As with other autoimmune diseases, exactly why these antibodies form is not known.

Investigations

A blood screen shows signs of inflammation. Antibody to type 2 collagen may be measured by certain specialist laboratories.

A tissue biopsy shows inflammation in the cartilage.

Management

Systemic corticosteroids (e.g. prednisone) remain the mainstay of treatment. Other treatments that are sometimes prescribed include:

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