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Cauliflower Ear Symptoms

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Posted by on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 5:38
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The term “cauliflower ear” refers to a condition that occurs when the cartilage of the outer ear is severely damaged or dies, causing the skin to swell and form irregular bumps. Cauliflower ear, also known as an auricular hematoma, is most often caused by repeated trauma to the ear, specifically in contact sports like boxing and wrestling. Auricular hematomas can be cured in a short period of time if addressed in the early stages. Without treatment from a physician, the “cauliflower” appearance can become permanent or cause other complications in the ear.

Cauliflower Ear Symptoms
Cauliflower Ear Symptoms

What Is Cauliflower Ear?

Cauliflower ear refers to a physical deformity of the external ear, which results to a lumpy appearance resembling a cauliflower, hence the name. Contact sport athletes such as jiu jitsu practitioners, wrestlers, boxers, rugby players, and mixed martial artists are susceptible to this injury due to blunt trauma to the external ear. The outer ear is composed mainly of skin and cartilage. Any blood supply present is supplied only by the skin. If the skin is separated from the underlying cartilage due to an injury, hematoma can occur and the cartilage will begin to die because of the lack of nutrients supplied by the blood. This increases the risk of infection to the injured area. Cauliflower ear is known medically as hematoma auris, Traumatic auricular hematoma or perchondrial hematoma.

Cauliflower Ear Causes

Cauliflower ear is usually caused by repeated injury to the outer ear. When an injury occurs, such as when the ear suffers from a blow or repeat rubbing, skin can separate from the cartilage and blood clot can develop. The outer part of the ear, particularly the damaged cartilage, becomes swollen, tender, and sore. Without treatment, the deformation becomes permanent. Cauliflower ears can also be caused by infections due to ear piercings through the upper ear cartilage.

Cauliflower Ear Symptoms

Repeated injury to the ear can lead to blood clotting due to internal leakage. If there is an abrasion or a cut, external bleeding can also occur. Another common symptom is swelling or inflammation, pain, earaches, headaches, and redness in the injured area. Be prepared as the ear soreness may cause several sleepless nights following the injury. Icing your ears for a minimum of 20 minutes before bed will alleviate some discomfort and reduce swelling. Infection could also occur along with a build-up of blood, pus, and other fluids. The fluid under the skin and the underlying cartilage will begin to harden as it heals. If the fluid is not drained from the affected area within a couple of days, the ear hardens and therefore cannot be treated without plastic surgery. For this reason, it is important to treat the affected area by a medical professional within 72 hours of inflammation. If left alone along with prolonged multiple trauma, it can lead to permanent severe deformity causing difficulty hearing due to obstruction.

Cauliflower Ear Treatments

The best cauliflower ear treatments are those that are performed at the beginning of the injury. Ice immediately after your ear has been impacted or once you feel soreness. Icing will provide comfort and possibly halt the development of cauliflower ears. If hematoma or blood clotting has already occurred, it is recommended to consult with a physician to drain your ear(s). The Doctor will drain the blood and pus through an incision and treated with antibiotics to prevent infections. These measures will help manage the inflammation, re-establish skin-to-cartilage connection and prevent cartilage death. Compressive dressing will then be applied to the affected area so the wound can heal. A course of treatment with antibiotics may also be prescribed. It usually takes 7 – 14 days of limited contact until the compressive dressing can be removed. Avoid anything from touching your ears during this time period so your ears do not get infected or re-agitated.

Unfortunately, if the affected ear has already hardened, then the only treatment available is plastic surgery. The procedure will be cosmetic at best but it can also help alleviate any discomfort, correct impaired hearing, and restore the appearance of your ears.

Prevention And Preventive Gear

Obviously, the best way to prevent cauliflower ears is to avoid any contact activity that may cause cauliflower ear deformity. However, since you are passionate about your training or art this is obviously not a viable option thus you should use the proper protective gear to protect your ears from injury.

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