Relapsing polychondritis is a rare autoimmune disease affecting cartilage tissue and other connective tissues.
Relapsing polychondritis is a rare disease, with a prevalence of about 3.5 cases per million people. It can affect people of any age, but is usually diagnosed in people aged 40 to 60 years and occurs more frequently in women than in men.
The exact cause of relapsing polychondritis is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks cartilage tissue and other connective tissues. Several genes associated with the disease have been identified, including genes encoding collagen proteins, but more research is still needed to better understand the etiology of the disease.
Diagnosis is made by a combination of symptoms, clinical findings, and laboratory and imaging test results. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, redness and warmth in the affected joints, as well as deformities of the nose and ears. Laboratory tests may show signs of inflammation, such as elevated levels of C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation. Imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may also show inflammation in the affected joints.
There is no cure for relapsing polychondritis, so treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing complications. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are the first-line treatment to reduce inflammation. Immunosuppressants, such as methotrexate and azathioprine, may also be useful in some cases. In more severe cases, biologic therapies, such as rituximab, may be necessary. Surgery may be necessary to correct deformities of the nose or ears.
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