Cauliflower ear is the name given to deformed ear caused due to blunt injury. It is often seen among boxers, wrestlers and people playing martial arts. Blunt trauma causes collection of blood (blood clot) between the skin and cartilage of the ear. Disruption of flow of blood to the damaged area can damage tissues.
The cartilage when traumatized has tendency to fold over itself giving a bumpy feel and appearance, similar to the head of cauliflower, thus the name.Due to less supply of blood to the ear, the part becomes pale giving it a cosmetic resemblance to cauliflower.
The condition needs to be treated as early as possible because delay in treatment can lead to permanent deformity. Fortunately, by wearing headgear it is possible to prevent severe blunt injuries on ear.
What Causes A Cauliflower Ear?
The commonest cause of cauliflower ear is direct blunt blow on the ear.Repeated blows on ear can lead to hematoma (collection of blood) between the skin and ear cartilage. The skin gets separated from the cartilage. Hematoma can disrupt the flow of blood which nourishes the tissues. With decreased flow of blood the ear cartilage tends to fold on itself and dies. It becomes rigid. The scar tissue develops leading to swelling and tiny bumps that look similar to head of cauliflower.
Aside from the blunt injury, cauliflower ear can occur due to infection in the ear lobe. As ear piercing has become a style symbol nowadays, people who pierce their ears should be careful in preventing ear infection afterwards.
The risk of suffering from cauliflower ear is more in people who play contact sports such as boxing, wrestling, rugby, etc. For example in boxing trauma to the ear may be due to a direct blow on the ear from the opponent player. In wrestling a forceful rubbing of head with the opponent may cause hematoma and damage to the ear. People who practice martial arts are also vulnerable to develop cauliflower ear.
How To Prevent And Treat Cauliflower Ear?
Wearing a protective headgear such as a helmet can prevent cauliflower ear. But often a fit helmet which requires to be taken out frequently damages the ear leading to tiny hematomas and cauliflower ear. Therefore it is necessary to wear a well fitting headgear.
If you suffer from an injury to the ear which causes hematoma, there is still a chance to avoid cauliflower ear. The aim of treatment is to facilitate easy flow of blood to the damaged area and prevent permanent deformity.
The doctor usually makes a small incision over the swelling to remove the collected blood or the clot. The results are promising when done within 24 hours after an injury. After removing the clot or accumulated blood the doctor stitches the incised skin and put a pressure bandage over the area.
Pressure bandage may have to be applied for number of days or even a week to establish contact between skin and ear cartilage. It ensures and facilitates vital blood supply to the cartilage for rapid healing. During this period, you may have to watch for signs of infection as it is vulnerable to infection. If you suspect so, consult your doctor as early as possible.
Patient may also require antibiotic medicines to prevent infection.