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Cauliflower Ear

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Symptoms of Cauliflower Ear

The initial symptoms of the types of injuries that lead to cauliflower ear are similar to the symptoms one might experience from blunt trauma elsewhere in the body. You may have swelling, and the area may be red or bruised. So it's important not to shrug off such symptoms if you have received a blow, or multiple blows, to the ear. Prompt treatment can prevent the development of cauliflower ear. But it must be performed before the tissue is compromised by lack of blood flow.

Treatment of Cauliflower Ear

If you experience an injury that causes a blockage in the tissues of your ear, there's still a chance you can avoid developing cauliflower ear. The goal of treatment is to ease the blockage so that blood can again flow to the affected tissues.

A doctor can accomplish this by making a small incision and draining accumulating blood or removing a clot and preventing further bleeding. He or she may need to reconnect tissues using stitches and apply a special bandage to put pressure on the area. This pressure dressing may need to stay in place for several days to a week. The site will require monitoring for signs of infection or signs that additional treatment may be needed. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics.

Prevention of Cauliflower Ear

The most important thing you can do to prevent cauliflower ear is to wear the appropriate head gear when engaging in activities that increase your risk for ear trauma, such as wrestling, boxing, rugby, and other close-contact sports. It's crucial to get a proper fit for protective head gear. A helmet that's too loose can slip out of place, leaving you vulnerable to injury. One that's too tight may itself be damaging to the ears, especially as you repeatedly rub it against your ears putting it on and taking it off.

Athletes should remember to use protective gear during practices. And those thinking about high ear piercings may want to talk with their doctor first.

Another important step in the prevention of cauliflower ear is to be aware of the risks and to have a doctor evaluate any trauma to the ear, even if it seems superficial. Treatment can help prevent the unsightly, often permanent, cosmetic effects of cauliflower ear. But it has to be done very soon after the injury occurs to be effective.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on September 15, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Nemours Foundation: "What's Cauliflower Ear?"

The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: "External Ear Trauma."

British Medical Journal: "'High' Ear Piercing and the Rising Incidence of Perichondritis of the Pinna."

Nationwide Children's Hospital, Sports Medicine: "Cauliflower Ear."

ENT Today, Official Publication of the Triological Society (American Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Society): "Incision, Repair of Ear Hematoma Recommended."

Rakel: Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed.; Chapter 19.

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