The shape of outer ear differs from one person to another and it is determined by the shape of external elastic structure called ear cartilage. Often you may have experienced pain in ear cartilage after trauma to the external ear or due to other reasons which we will decipher in the next paragraph.
Ear cartilage is thin, flexible and elastic. Besides providing shape to ears, it facilitates the sound to travel inside the ear. Ear cartilage is devoid of independent blood supply and it depends on the surrounding soft tissue called perichondrium.
Cartilage pain can be moderate or intense and is often accompanied with inflammation and redness. It may be bilateral or unilateral pain depending on the cause. Patient experiences extreme discomfort with ear cartilage pain. In most cases pain subsides after treating the underlying pathology.
Causes Of Sharp Pain In Outer Ear Cartilage
There are several triggering factors responsible for pain in ear cartilage; most of them are accompanied with swelling, heat and redness of ear.
- Ear piercing has become a style fad among young generation although it is practiced since ancient times in several communities for religious purposes. There is high risk of bacterial infection after piercing, especially ear cartilage piercing. Pain is prominent symptom of infected ear cartilage piercing. Pain intensifies especially during night when the person sleeps on the affected side.
- Traumatic injury to the external ear can cause inflammation and pain. Injury can be due to blunt object, a blow as it may occur in contact sports or due to cuts and laceration caused by sharp object. In addition to pain, there is risk of infection if the lacerated area bleeds.
- Ear cartilage pain can occur after surgery such as pinnaplasty, a procedure of reshaping the pinna of outer ear.
- Ear cartilage pain can occur due to perichondritis, a condition characterized by inflammation, infection and pain. In this condition, the soft tissue (perichondrium) surrounding the cartilage is affected. Perichondrium provides blood supply to the cartilage. Infection in perchondrium if not treated in time can spread to ear cartilage leading to pain and complication in the cartilage.
- Exposure to extreme cold climate or sun heat can cause pain in external ear cartilage. Too much sunlight may be responsible for sunburn which may cause stinging and burning pain in the outer cartilaginous structure of ear.
Treatment Options For Ear Cartilage Pain
There are varieties of reasons for ear cartilage pain. Treatment depends on addressing the underlying cause.
- Anti inflammatory and antibiotics are important for resolving infection and swelling in ear cartilage, especially in case of perichondritis.
- In case if the infection is severe leading to pus and abscess in the soft tissue and cartilage, surgical intervention may be required to drain the pus.
- Often cold and cough may cause pain all around the ear and in the cartilage. Treatment of cold and cough alleviates pain.
- If pain is caused due to sunburn, applying ice for a while two to three times will soothe the pain. In case is pain is intense and severe, you should consult medical professional.
- Pain produced after infected ear cartilage piercing needs to be treated by antibiotic and anti inflammatory medicines. Coconut oil or aloe vera gel has soothing effect. Apply on the pierced site after gently cleaning the piercing.