Relapsing polychondritis (RPC) is a rare, chronic, and potentially fatal multisystemic inflammatory disorder targeting cartilaginous structures. This disorder is frequently associated with rheumatoid arthritis, systemic vasculitis, connective tissue diseases, and/or hematologic disorders. RPC afflicts patients with recurrent and often progressive episodes of inflammation with the potential for destruction of the affected structures. Tissues involved include the ears, joints, nose, larynx, trachea, eyes, heart valves, kidneys,and skin. Ocular manifestations commonly include episcleritis, scleritis, conjunctivitis, iridocyclitis, chorioretinitis, and proptosis. Lid edema, orbital inflammation, muscle palsies, and corneal melting may also occur.
An 83-year-old man previously diagnosed with RPC presented to our clinic with acute unilateral chemosis, conjunctivitis, lid edema, proptosis, and extraocular muscle restriction. After orbital cellulitis was ruled out, further evaluation revealed posterior scleritis with choroidal detachment OS. A course of oral indomethacin and topical antibiotic-steroid combination drops was implemented in the treatment of the ocular manifestations. The quick positive response to the anti-inflammatory agents confirmed the diagnosis of ocular complications secondary to RPC.
The presenting ocular signs and symptoms of RPC often resemble other commonly encountered ocular conditions. It is important for the eye care practitioner to be familiar with the ocular manifestations of RPC because the eyes are sometimes the initial site of involvement and may be a marker of severity. Early diagnosis and intervention may significantly improve the patient’s outcome. This case report with literature review will hopefully bring to light features of this disease which will help the eye care practitioner in the diagnosis and management of this condition.