Relapsing polychondritis is characterized by the prominent inflammation of cartilaginous structures and, in this respect, differs from other connective tissue diseases. The inflammation typically involves the cartilages of the ears and nasal septum, although cartilages of the joints, larynx, trachea, epiglottis, ribs, thyroid, bronchi, and eustachian tube also may be involved. Ocular inflammation and a generalized systemic reaction often occur. There also may be evidence of involvement of the inner ear with auditory impairment, tinnitus, and vertigo. Anemia and an abnormal erythrocyte sedimentation rate are common.
The syndrome has been reported infrequently but may be more common than heretofore recognized.