Here are several examples of what cartilage damage can look like, including photos of cauliflower ear and deeply infected piercings. For more information on the symptoms and prevention of piercing infections read our guide.
This is an example of the ‘deforming lump’ which can occur due to an infection getting deep into the cartilage itself.
You can see how the ear has lost its upper structure and is no longer clearly defined. The piercing hole also appears warped and pusy.
These are examples of what the ear can look like after a deep infection (usually Perichonritis / Chonritis) has been sorted out. As you can see parts of the ear near where the piercing was have been deformed, loosing their inner structure and ‘folding’ over.
Since your body cannot cure this by itself it will take re-constructive plastic surgery to sort out these problems.
Finally, this is a photograph of wrestler Randy Couture’s cauliflower ear, damaged during his fighting career (his is also an actor and artist) and is an example of what can happen to cartilage when it is hit by blunt force trauma.
You can clearly see in this photograph how the liquid that filled the ear between the layers of cartilage has caused the cartilage to loose its structure and definition becoming lumpy and full of little ‘bumps.’
In very extreme cases the deformity can cause the ear canal to become covered and impair hearing.
If caught soon enough cauliflower ear can be drained and the ear mostly saved but without this intervention the only way to repair the damage is through plastic surgery.
Cartilage Damage Photo Sources:
The first photograph of the ear infection comes from the Prime health channel’s article on Cartilage Piercing Information, Types, Infection and Healing and can be found here.
The next three photographs showing ear damage after infection from ear piercings come from the following articles:
- The Brazilian journal of Otorhinolaryngology article on Auricular perichondritis by piercing complicated with pseudomonas infection by Felipe Montes Pena et al. Found online here.
- The Canadian Medical Association Journal article on Necrotizing Pseudomonas chondritis after piercing of the upper ear by Todd C. Lee, MD and Wayne L. Gold, MD (CMAJ April 19, 2011 vol. 183 no. 7) Found online here.
- Painless Steel’s (Studio from Everett, WA) guide to ear piercing guns (which we highly recommend reading) found on their blog here
Finally the last photograph of Randy Couture’s cauliflower ear comes from ESPN The Magazine’s ‘Body Issue’ and can be found on the MMA Mania website here.