Perichondrial hematoma or "cauliflower ear" occurs when trauma affecting the ear does not heal properly. This causes the ear to change shape, becoming bumpy and disfigured, eventually resembling a cauliflower head. Because the condition primarily affects people participating in wrestling and similar sports, it is sometimes referred to as "wrestler's ear."
Direct trauma to the ear, such as from a punch or excessive pressure from a headlock, creates a hematoma, the collection of blood outside the blood vessels. Without treatment, the hematoma heals improperly and cauliflower ear develops. Occasionally, infections from ear piercings can cause cauliflower ear, as well. Relapsing polychondritis, a rare rheumatologic disorder in which inflammation destroys cartilage in the ears and nose, may also be responsible.
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