Relapsing polychondritis is a condition where cartilage deteriorates. It is also known as Chronic atrophic polychondritis, Meyenburg-Altherr-Uehlinger syndrome, von Meyenburg's disease, Generalized chondromalacia, or Systemic chondromalacia.
Typically, relapsing polychondritis causes sudden pain in the inflamed tissue at the onset of the disease. Common symptoms are pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness in one or both ears, the nose, throat, joints, and/or eyes. Fever, fatigue, and weight loss often develop. Inflammation of the ears and nose can cause deformity (saddle nose deformity and floppy ears) from weakened cartilage. Impaired hearing, balance, and nausea can be caused by inner ear inflammation. Inflammation of the windpipe or trachea can lead to throat pain, hoarseness, and breathing difficulty. This is a potentially dangerous area of inflammation in patients with relapsing polychondritis, which can require assisted breathing methods when severe. Joint inflammation (arthritis) can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints, including of the hands, knees, ankles, wrists, and feet. Eye inflammation can be mild or severe and can damage vision. Cataracts can be caused by the inflammation or from the cortisone used to treat relapsing polychondritis (see below).
The cause of relapsing polychondritis is unknown. It is suspected that this condition is caused by an immune system disorder (autoimmunity) in which the body's immunity system (which normally fights off invaders of the body, particularly infections) is misguided. This results in inflammation that is directed at various tissues of the body
Treatment plans typically involve suppression of the immune system with medicines, which often result in a side effect of increasing the risk of other infections