Polychondritis is a disease of the cartilage. The disease occurs with a very low frequency in the population. In some cases, polychondritis is also referred to as panchondritis and polychondritis atropicans. The disease is related to rheumatic factors. Inflammation of the cartilage, which occurs again and again, is typical of polychondritis. In this way, the stability of the cartilage is gradually reduced.
What is polychondritis?
As a result of the chronic inflammatory conditions of the cartilage in the context of polychondritis, the tissue softens. As a result, the cartilage may deform and, over time, become unable to fully perform its normal functions. The disease was first described in 1923 by a specialist in internal medicine, Doctor von Jaksch. See polyhobbies for Meanings of Rapidly Progressive Glomerulonephritis.
A synonym for polychondritis is Meyenburg-Altherr-Uehlinger syndrome. The disease extends over a long period of time and leads to gradual destruction of the cartilage. To this day, the causes of the development of the disease have not yet been fully clarified. Since it is assumed that the immune system is involved, polychondritis is now one of the autoimmune diseases.
So far, the causes of the development of polychondritis are still unclear. Only a few assumptions already exist, but these have not yet been secured. However, numerous physicians and researchers assume that certain autoimmune processes contribute to the development of the disease. For this reason, polychondritis is included in the category of autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A number of symptoms are typical of polychondritis, which are usually very similar in the affected patients. In the context of polychondritis, the sick people suffer from inflammation of the cartilage, which occurs recurrently. The chronological stages between the episodes amount to several weeks to several months.
Due to the inflammatory processes inside the cartilage, it loses stability. Over time, the cartilage becomes less and less able to perform its usual functions and tasks. In principle, it is possible for polychondritis to occur in all areas of the human organism that contain cartilage.
However, it has been shown that the joints in particular are particularly likely to be affected by the inflammatory processes. The inflammation of the cartilage is usually accompanied by pain in the diseased areas. In most cases, the pain conditions are perceived as very intense by the affected patients. Polychondritis can also occur in the nose and ears.
This applies at least to those areas that have cartilage. A loss of strength in the cartilage of the nose causes it to move downward. As a result, there is a more or less visible change in the shape and appearance of the nose. If the polychondritis occurs in the area of the ears and the cartilage located there, a so-called perichondritis usually develops at the same time.
In addition, polychondritis may be associated with some other potential ailments. These include, for example, inflammation of the eyes, a deterioration in hearing ability through to hearing loss, and diseases of the heart valves. Difficulty breathing sometimes develops with polychondritis, particularly when the cartilage of the larynx is affected by the disease.
Although the disease can affect all cartilage-containing organs and tissues of the organism, polychondritis primarily manifests itself in those cartilages that are often also affected by arthritis. In addition, the cartilages of the nose and ears are often affected by the recurrent inflammation. This results in a so-called saddle nose in many patients. The typical deformations of the ear are also known as cauliflower ears.
Diagnosis & History
Various examination techniques are suitable for diagnosing polychondritis. If the disease is suspected, the complaints must be clarified promptly by a suitable specialist. At this point, the patient interview takes place, which the doctor conducts with the person concerned. The patient is encouraged to describe all symptoms as precisely as possible to the treating specialist.
The doctor also asks questions about the person’s living conditions and consumption habits. In this way, a suspected diagnosis of the disease is possible. The suspicion is checked and strengthened in the second step of the diagnosis using various examination procedures.
Laboratory tests show typical parameters, such as an increase in the C-reactive protein, an increased concentration of antibodies and various rheumatism markers. In addition, ECG examinations and hearing tests are usually carried out.
In most cases, polychondritis causes inflammation of the cartilage. This inflammation can be associated with pain and other discomfort. Complications usually arise when this inflammation is left untreated and spreads to other parts of the body. The stability of the cartilage is significantly reduced by the polychondritis, which can lead to difficulties in the patient’s everyday life.
The patient’s resilience is also generally reduced and most of those affected suffer from joint wear and tear. Severe pain occurs, especially under stress, so that sporting activities are also no longer possible for those affected. In children, polychondritis can also delay development.
In many cases, polychondritis also spreads to the eyes, which can lead to eye inflammation. Heart problems can also make themselves felt, and breathing problems can also occur. Treatment of polychondritis is carried out with the help of drugs. Usually there are no complications. A healthy lifestyle also has a very positive effect on polychondritis.
When should you go to the doctor?
A gradual decrease in physical endurance is a sign of a health irregularity. A doctor should be consulted as soon as the person affected consciously perceives the decline in physical strength or there are impairments in everyday life. A feeling of inflammation in the organism, irritability or an increased body temperature should be presented to a doctor. If general functional disorders appear, this is an alarming signal that should be clarified. Hearing loss, red eyes, or heart rhythm irregularities should be evaluated and treated. A doctor is needed if you feel ill, if you feel generally unwell or if your breathing is impaired.
Deformations in the face are to be interpreted as a warning signal from the organism. Changes in the shape of the nose or ears should therefore be discussed with a doctor. If instability is felt in the areas of the body where cartilage can be felt, the observations should be discussed with a physician. Especially on the face, the strength of the cartilage can be checked and adjusted in a few simple steps in the area of the nose in the case of polychondritis. The disease is also characterized by pain, which the patient describes as very intense. A doctor’s visit is necessary for the right medication to be administered.
Treatment & Therapy
When acute inflammation occurs as part of polychondritis, cortisone is often used. Otherwise, the therapeutic measures are primarily based on where the symptoms are localized. Accompanying symptoms of polychondritis are, for example, diseases of the blood vessels, conjunctivitis and inner ear hearing loss. In connection with the polychondritis, a loss of body weight, fatigue and night sweats are also possible complaints that need to be treated.
Since the causes of polychondritis have not been sufficiently researched, there are no reliable statements regarding the prevention of the disease.
In most cases, those affected by polychondritis have no special and direct follow-up measures available. In the case of this disease, a doctor should ideally be contacted at an early stage so that further deterioration of the symptoms or further complications can be prevented. Polychondritis cannot heal itself, so treatment by a doctor is always necessary.
Polychondritis is usually treated by using various creams or ointments that contain cortisone and can relieve the symptoms permanently. Those affected should definitely pay attention to the correct use and dosage of the creams so that the symptoms can be permanently and correctly alleviated.
Since polychondritis can also lead to other strong side effects and symptoms, these should also be treated properly. Above all, the loss of body weight must be treated so that there are no deficiency symptoms. As a rule, no special aftercare is necessary. If the polychondritis is not recognized until late, this can possibly lead to hearing damage, so that those affected are dependent on wearing a hearing aid.
You can do that yourself
Since it is not yet known exactly how polychondritis develops, only its symptoms can be treated. For example, a hearing loss is compensated with a hearing aid and an eye infection is treated with drops.
Polychondritis is considered an autoimmune disease, so alternative therapies can contain the disease and reduce the inflammatory flare-ups. Alternative therapies include, for example, drainage or detoxification. There are now many substances that are known to detoxify, such as healing earth, various homeopathic remedies, phytopharmaceuticals or orthomolecular substances. Patients should seek advice from appropriately trained doctors or non- medical practitioners .
Intestinal culture is of particular importance in autoimmune diseases. It should be maintained with fresh, high-fiber food, little alcohol, sugar and fat. At the same time, patients should make sure to eat enough despite possible pain in order to avoid unnecessary weight loss.
Even if most polychondritis patients are no longer able to exercise, they should exercise as much as possible. Long walks in the fresh air support the immune system in the fight against inflammatory substances in the body. Set rest periods and adequate sleep also support healing. Patients with polychondritis should also avoid nicotine. Self-help groups are a great way to connect with other patients. The Deutsche Rheuma-Liga has a corresponding address (www.rheuma-liga.de).