Perichondritis (cauliflower ear)

Perichondritis happens when the thin layer of skin tissue that covers the cartilage becomes infected or is separated, usually due to ear injury or trauma.


It is commonly called 'cauliflower ear' and is quite common in boxers or rugby players who play contact sports. Symptoms can include redness, pain, swelling, fever and pus.


Our ears are made of cartilage and covered with a thin layer of skin tissue called the perichondrium. Perichondritis happens when this layer becomes infected, or is separated from the cartilage, usually after injury to the ear, a cut to the ear, surgery, ear piercing or insect bites.


Perichondritis is diagnosed by an examination to the ear by a medical professional. They'll ask you a few questions that may help to determine the cause, like if you play contact sports, or if you've recently had an ear piercing.

Treatment and prevention

Early treatment can include antibiotics to reduce the chance of the infection spreading to the cartilage, which could damage the structure of the ear. Prevention can include protection of the ears during contact sports and ensuring piercings are performed hygienically and cuts treated to reduce the risk of infection.