Relapsing polychondritis: systemic and ocular manifestations, differential diagnosis, management, and prognosis

Semin Ophthalmol. 2011 Jul-Sep;26(4-5):261-9. doi: 10.3109/08820538.2011.588653.


Relapsing polychondritis (RP) is a rare systemic autoimmune disease characterized by episodic inflammation of cartilaginous tissues throughout the body. It is distinguished by recurrent bouts of inflammation, which lead to the permanent destruction of the involved structures. It can be a life-threatening, debilitating, and frightening disease and is often difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Ocular manifestations have been reported to occur in up to 65% of cases and include proptosis, eyelid edema, extraocular muscles palsy, episcleritis, scleritis, conjunctivitis, corneal infiltrate, peripheral ulcerative keratitis, corneal thinning or perforation, iridocyclitis, cataract, retinopathy, exudative retinal detachment, and optic neuritis. Corticosteroids remain the mainstay of treatment for RP; however, other treatment modalities include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, dapsone, and immunomodulatory drugs. This article reviews the literature and summarizes the epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features, treatment, and prognosis of the systemic and ocular manifestations of RP.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Eye Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Eye Diseases* / therapy
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Polychondritis, Relapsing* / diagnosis
  • Polychondritis, Relapsing* / therapy
  • Prognosis


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Glucocorticoids