Damage to the outside of the ear: cauliflower ear

A cauliflower ear, also called shriveled ear or boxer’s ear, is an auricle that has acquired the appearance of a cauliflower due to damage to the cartilage. Damage often occurs during contact sports such as martial arts or rugby that involve frequent hard blows to the ear. Piercings through the cartilage of the ear can cause inflammation, resulting in cauliflower ear.

What a cauliflower ear is

Other names for a cauliflower ear is also a shriveled ear or boxer’s ear. Damage to the cartilage of the ear gives it the bulbous appearance of a cauliflower, causing the auricle to become seriously deformed. The cartilage can be seriously damaged by an infected piercing or contact sports. The membrane that covers the ear cartilage (perichondrium) also becomes inflamed. This damage causes bleeding in the cartilage. The body will want to clean up these cartilage bleeds, which not only cleans up the blood, but also the cartilage itself. This causes the ear to shrivel.

How it arises

A heavy blow to the ear can cause bleeding between the cartilage and the membrane surrounding this cartilage, also called perichondrium. This membrane supplies the cartilage with nutrients and oxygen. If the bleeding causes a blood clot to form, the supply to the cartilage can be interrupted, resulting in a deformed auricle. The name cauliflower ear has been given for this condition because this shriveled ear resembles a cauliflower floret.

How cauliflower ear is treated

If there is bleeding under the cartilage membrane of the ear or between this membrane and the skin, it is important that the clot is removed by the doctor as quickly as possible. He can do this by making a small incision in the ear and pushing out the clot. Pressure is then applied to this location to prevent another blood clot from forming. The pressure should also not be too high because this can hinder the blood supply to the cartilage. In addition, it is important that this treatment is carried out sterilely because a bacterial infection of the perichondrium will actually worsen the problem. If the doctor is too late for this treatment and the cauliflower ear has already developed, a plastic surgeon is the only one who can offer a solution. Complete recovery is not possible because treatment is actually too late.

How to prevent cauliflower ear during sports

If you practice martial arts or other forms of contact sports, it is advisable to wear earmuffs to prevent bruising. Boxers often suffer from repeated damage and injuries to the ear. Hence the name boxer’s ear for this condition. This causes a blue-red swelling of the auricle as a result of the bruising between the cartilage and perichondrium. This usually occurs in the upper half at the front of the ear. The swelling is susceptible to infection which can lead to cauliflower ear.

Cauliflower ear through piercing

A cauliflower ear can also be caused by piercing the upper part of the ear through the cartilage. If the piercing causes pain and swelling, the piercing should be removed as soon as possible and the ear should then be treated as soon as possible. Here too, bleeding can occur between the cartilage and perichondrium, which usually occurs in the upper half of the front. Insufficient or late treatment can cause the cartilage in the ear to be lost, causing the auricle to shrivel. Doctors sometimes recommend rapid and aggressive treatment with antibiotics for cartilage inflammation. If the inflammation does not go away quickly, the doctor may refer you to a specialist. Because once a cauliflower ear has developed, it cannot be returned to its original state.
Wearing a piercing in the earlobe is less harmful because there is no cartilage present.

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