Which clinical history findings are characteristic of relapsing polychondritis (RP)?

Updated: Dec 06, 2018
  • Author: Nicholas Compton, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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The wide array of possible presenting symptoms and the episodic nature of relapsing polychondritis (RP) may result in a significant delay in diagnosis. In a review of 66 patients, the elapsed time from patient presentation for medical care for a related symptom to diagnosis was reported to be 2.9 years. [19] In fact, one third of patients with diagnosed relapsing polychondritis see five or more physicians before the correct diagnosis is made.

The affected systems and symptoms reported in patients with relapsing polychondritis before and after diagnosis include the following:

  • General - Intermittent fever, weight loss, and skin rash (see Physical)

  • Audiovestibular - Sudden ear pain (unilateral or bilateral), inability to sleep on affected side, floppy ear, suddenly diminished hearing, tinnitus (occasional or persistent), otitis media, ear drainage, vertigo (with or without nausea and vomiting), and unsteadiness (See the image below.)

    Floppy ear. Courtesy of the University of Washingt Floppy ear. Courtesy of the University of Washington, Division of Dermatology.
  • Musculoskeletal - Polyarthritis or monoarthritis, myalgias, back pain, rib pain, sternal pain, calf pain or claudication, and migratory or generalized arthralgias

  • Respiratory - Dyspnea, wheezing, cough, exercise intolerance, hoarseness, and recurrent infection

  • Gastrointestinal - Dysphagia

  • Nasal - Feeling of fullness across nasal bridge, saddle-shaped nose, mild epistaxis, and painful, red, and swollen nose

  • Ocular - Decreased visual acuity, conjunctivitis, episcleritis, scleritis, history of ocular inflammation, diplopia, and eyelid swelling [27]

  • Cardiovascular - Chest pain, abdominal pain, history of pericarditis, abnormal heart rate or rhythm, syncope, and history of subacute myocardial infarction (found on ECG)

  • Central nervous system - Headache, ataxia, confusion, cranial nerve palsy, confusion, psychiatric signs, focal weakness/sensation changes, dementia, and seizures

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