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Cauliflower Ear

Yes, you read that right. Yes this is a medical column, not an article about gardening. I'm not talking about some strange hybrid vegetable but rather a true medical issue. So what is a cauliflower ear? How do you get it or rather how do you avoid getting it? Read this article to learn everything you never wanted to know about cauliflower ear.

What is Cauliflower Ear?
Cauliflower ear is an area of bleeding around the cartilage of the ear. It makes the ear look deformed, somewhat like a head of cauliflower. It is caused by trauma to the area, usually from rubbing forcefully against a hard surface, such as in wrestling. When the blood vessels surrounding the cartilage of the ear are ruptured, they force the skin to pull apart from the cartilage itself. When that happens, the blood can't escape and becomes congealed and stays there. As it has no way to drain, it eventually turns into a hard area and becomes permanent, deforming the ear to make it look like cauliflower. You may have seen this on some athletes, particularly wrestlers.

How is it treated?
The best way to treat this issue is to prevent it. It is preventable by wearing "headgear" or protective coverings over the ear when taking part in activities (such as wrestling) where this trauma may occur. If you do not wear headgear and have some of this swelling occur, it is imperative to get medical treatment. This is not an issue where you need to go to the emergency room. Rather, it is something that needs to be evaluated and treated by a medical professional within 24 to 48 hours. If the area of swelling is small and begins to resolve within this time, nothing may need to be done. It is important that the issue be evaluated by a medical professional; however, to determine if treatment is necessary.

If there is swelling present, it is treated by making an incision in the skin where the bleeding occurred. The blood must be drained promptly and then a pressure dressing of some sort needs to be applied. There are several different ways this is done but your medical provider will apply what best suits your issue. The most important thing is to get it treated early. If it is not drained within the first few days, the blood is not able to be drained and then either the ear is permanently deformed or plastic surgery is necessary in order to remove the blood at that point.

Cauliflower ear is an issue that needs to be evaluated promptly. If you think you have this issue, go to your doctor's office today to have it evaluated. Of course, the best treatment is prevention. Wear your headgear, wrestlers!

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