Chondrodermatitis helicis is a skin condition marked by small, painful bumps on the borders or elevations of the ears. The literal meaning of the word chondrodermatitis indicates an inflammation of the cartilage (chondro) and skin (derma).
These nodules are firm, tender and round or oval, with a crusted or scaly surface. They form on the exterior of the ear either on the outer rim or helix, or the inner rim or antihelix. While they can form on either ear, for some reason they tend to be more common on the right ear.
What causes these bumps on the ears?
While the exact cause is not known, there are several contributing factors that have been identified. These include:
• Chondrodermatitis helicis is found most often in males and people past middle age.
• The condition may occur when pressure is constantly applied to the same ear, such as when holding a telephone.
• This condition often occurs as a result of sleeping on the side of the involved ear.
• It is thought that reduced blood flow to the cartilage in the ear is responsible for CH.
Though the condition happens most frequently among middle aged or older males, there have also been some incidences of a pediatric form that is more common among female babies. In this pediatric form, the cause is almost certainly pressure from sleeping on one side repeatedly. It can also be exacerbated by sleeping on a hard pillow.
Exposure to sunlight and extreme cold can also be contributing factors. Repeated pressure on the ear can cause damage because the skin of the ear is so thin and therefore the cartilage and blood vessels underneath are more vulnerable.
While recent studies have been unable to pinpoint a more exact cause, they have further isolated middle aged and older men as the primarily affected group.
How is chondrodermatitis helicis treated?
Though there is no known cure for the condition, there are several courses of treatment that have proven successful:
• Sometimes chondrodermatitis helicis responds to topical cortisone ointments.
• Cortisone injections can also be used to treat CH.
• Surgery may be needed in difficult cases, but recurrence of the condition after surgery is common.
The most important thing to remember with this condition is to avoid putting continued pressure on the ear. This may require changing your sleeping habits to shift to the other side and use a softer pillow. Also, a corn plaster or a sponge with a hole cut into it can be used to pad the ear while sleeping and remove pressure from the affected area.