The pinna is part of the outer ear. Infection can affect the pinna and the underlying cartilage leading to undesirable ‘cauliflower’ deformities.
The affected pinna is red, swollen and painful. It is extremely painful to touch.
Ear piercing (especially through the cartilaginous part of the pinna) is not advisable as it can lead to perichondritis and pinna abscess.
Normal common bacteria resides on the skin of the pinna.
A breach of the skin can allow the normal bacteria that resides on the skin of the pinna to infect the skin and the underlying cartilage. Trauma to the pinna and cartilage is the most common cause of pinna infection. If the infection involves the cartilage, it is called perichondritis. Sometimes the infection is severe enough to destroy the cartilage and cause an abscess (pus collection).
Infection of the external ear canal may also spread to involve the pinna.
The diagnosis is often evident from history and physical examination. A swab of the pus may be obtained.
You will be admitted to hospital for intravenous antibiotics to prevent the infection from progressing into an abscess. If an abscess has already formed, it will need to undergo incision and drainage as well as daily cleansing and dressing. The abscess destroys normal cartilage and as it heals, the disordered new cartilage growth may lead to a deformity called ‘cauliflower ear’.
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