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Since Relapsing Polychondritis is so rare and so surreptitious, it is difficult to recognize. People who are diagnosed have mild to severe symptoms; it all depends on the person's immune system and its reaction to the disease. Mild symptoms include splotchy rashes around (but are not limited to) the catilaginous areas of the body. It is most often seen around the ears and nose. The irritated area is raised and slightly red. The rashes usually appear in a symmetrical pattern (both ears, the entire bridge of the nose, under both eyebrows, etc.) and can continue to spread. Since Relapsing Polychondritis is closely related to the auto-immune disease Lupus, the rashes may resemble those found with Lupus. The most startling characteristic of Relapsing Polychondritis is that it can appear anywhere on the body with little to no warning, including the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Additional and potentially serious symptoms include hoarseness, chest pain/tightness, and joint pain/inflammation (due to its relationship with Rheumatoid Arthritis). The causes of Relapsing Polychondritis vary. Different things trigger outbreaks for different people. For some, skin trauma such as an ear piercing or brow tweezing may cause the immune system to kick into overdrive, sparking an outbreak. For others, it could be something as small as a mild sunburn or stress at work. Relapsing Polychondritis can be controlled with medication. At the first sight of rashes or any joint irritation, a strong steroid called Prednisone will almost immediately subdue the outbreak for many patients. Between flares, some patients will take Plaquenil to prevent outbreaks. Mild cases can be completely controlled with Plaquenil, but these patients must remain aware of their body, have frequent eye exams, and maintain optimal health.
Contributed by Nicole Jeanette Hernandez