Relapsing polychondritis is a rare degenerative condition with no cure. Treatment typically focuses on addressing symptoms and slowing the progression of the condition.
Relapsing polychondritis is a rare immune-mediated degenerative disease that causes cartilage inflammation in a person’s body, including the ears and nose.
Treatment often involves addressing a person’s symptoms and helping prevent disease progression. There is no cure for the condition.
This article reviews the goals of treatment for polychondritis and common treatment approaches.
There is currently no cure for relapsing polychondritis. Treatment
- alleviating pain and other symptoms
- controlling acute episodes of inflammation
- preventing or reducing the severity of future immune system responses
There are also currently no standard treatments for the condition. Experts recommend doctors provide treatment based on effective therapy with the least number of side effects possible.
The following sections outline some common forms of treatment, why a doctor might recommend them, and possible risks and benefits.
Corticosteroids help to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. Oral prednisone is a common choice.
A healthcare professional may recommend steroids for long-term treatment to help suppress the immune system.
People who develop a resistance to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or who have more serious forms
Prednisone and other corticosteroids can cause several potential side effects. They can include:
- changes in appetite
- slowed healing of cuts and bruises
- changes in mood
- weight gain
Certain people, such as those living with diabetes or pregnant people, should avoid using them.
A person should discuss side effects with a healthcare professional to determine the best option for them.
NSAIDs are a form of pain relief medication that also reduce inflammation. They are available in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription forms.
A healthcare professional
Possible benefits of NSAIDs can include:
- available in both prescription and nonprescription forms
- often cost-effective
- can provide relief to mild cases
NSAIDs can cause a variety of potential side effects. They
- diarrhea or constipation
- stomach pain
- nausea and vomiting
- edema (fluid retention)
- skin rash
NSAIDs can also interact with other medications and may not be safe for certain groups of people, such as those with stomach ulcers or who are pregnant, among others. A person should review their medications and medical history with a doctor before taking them.
Some common examples include:
- a person cannot take corticosteroids or are not responsive to them
- a person has severe symptoms that can affect the organs
Immunosuppressants can cause different side effects depending on the type a person uses. People should ask a health professional or pharmacist about potential side effects.
All immunosuppressants can increase a person’s risk of infection. They help calm or diminish the immune system’s response, making people more susceptible to infections.
A person may need to take additional steps to help prevent infection when undergoing immunosuppressant therapy.
Healthcare professionals might recommend surgery to replace heart valves where relapsing polychondritis affects the heart valves.
According to a
The presence of either may require surgical correction.
Heart valve replacement surgery can help fix issues with the heart. This may help prevent heart strain, which can lead to heart disease or other issues.
If a person is symptomatic, the procedure
- heart palpitations
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing when lying down
- shortness of breath
- swollen ankles and feet
Risks of surgery can vary based on the procedure a person undergoes. Surgery can involve open heart surgery or port access. Port access requires a smaller incision and is less invasive than open heart surgery.
A person should discuss the available surgical options with their healthcare team to determine the best option for them.
Learn more about the risks and benefits of heart valve replacement surgery here.
Relapsing polychondritis can cause the trachea (the tube that connects a person’s voice box to their lungs) to become “floppy.” This can cause breathing or eating issues, which may mean a person requires a tracheostomy.
A tracheostomy is a procedure that involves placing a breathing tube into the trachea to allow a person to breathe.
When relapsing polychondritis causes breathing issues, a tracheostomy can help correct this.
A tracheostomy has some associated risks and potential complications. A
The study found that doctors often over-emphasize the benefits of the breathing tube rather than addressing the physical complications, such as the risk of infection or obstruction of the airways.
A person should discuss the potential for complications with a healthcare professional before the procedure to determine if a tracheostomy is the best option for them.
Learn more about what to expect from a tracheotomy procedure.
A person should talk with a healthcare professional if they experience unusual symptoms, such as pain in their outer ears, which may indicate relapsing polychondritis.
However, due to the generally vague and often unnoticed onset of the symptoms associated with relapsing polychondritis, it may take some time for doctors to properly diagnose the condition. The average time for diagnosis is about
A person diagnosed with relapsing polychondritis and undergoing treatment should let a healthcare professional know if their symptoms worsen or do not improve. They may be able to offer additional options.
The following sections can help answer commonly asked questions about relapsing polychondritis.
Can relapsing polychondritis be cured?
There is no cure for relapsing polychondritis. Treatment focuses on addressing symptoms and preventing disease progression.
How long can a person live with relapsing polychondritis?
In recent years, survival rates
Relapsing polychondritis treatments focus on helping with symptoms and preventing worsening symptoms.
The treatments either focus directly on relieving the symptoms, such as NSAIDs, or are more systemic and focus on suppressing the immune system. Some people may need surgery to replace heart valves or insert a breathing tube.
A person should talk with a doctor about the best treatment options that take into account their risks and benefits.