Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicis.

“inflamed cartilage, looks like a nodule, found on the ear”

What is Chondrodermatitis?

Chondrodermatis Nodular Helicis (CNH) literally means ‘inflamed cartilage on the rim of the ear’.

CNH is found on the sun-exposed rim of the outer ear. The well defined nodule is pink, and tender to touch.

Chondrodermatitis may be thought of as an injury to the cartilage. What causes this injury?

  • Pressure against the ear from lying on that side or holding a phone
  • Chronic sun exposure
  • Cold weather is another cause for CNH trigger in cooler climates.

The cartilage is especially to injury because the skin can, in a sense, be regarded as being of ‘poor quality.’ There is little ‘padding’ in the skin of the ear. The blood supply to the upper layers of skin is less ‘resilient’ than the blood supply to skin in other areas of the body. The epidermis and cartilage derives their blood supply from small vessels in the dermis.

What does CNH Look like?

Chondrodermatitis occurs on the outer ear as a painful, scaly, skin-coloured nodule in adults. There is often a small ulcer in the middle of the nodule.

The condition is around 4 to 5 times more common in men then women, and most commonly affects the right ear. Although usually found on the helix in men, Chondrodermatitis tends to affect women on the Antehelix ¹.

Chondrodermatis is different from the common weathering nodule of the ear which occur commonly in older guys. These small nodules occur on the outer helix and are not sore or tender.

Chondrodermatitis is most common in males on the helix and in females on the anti helix

Chondrodermatitis is most common in males on the helix and in females on the anti helix

Skin Cancers are also very common on the ear. SCC is also tender and may look very similar to Chondrodermatitis.

How does Chondrodermatitis differ from Skin Cancers?

Skin Cancer can look identical to CNH. Let’s look at the clinical features of CNH.

Chondrodermatitis .V. skin Cancers on the ear
Age & SexLocation on EarSpeed of growthShape & SizeColourOther Features
ChondrodermatitisMore common in males from mid 30’s upwardsMost commonly upper part of the rim of the earRapid, then stops growing after a few monthsDome Shaped 4 to 20mm most commonly around 5-10mmskin coloured or pinkCentral small ulcer
Skin CancersAlso more common in males & increasing ageSun Exposed parts of the ear – anywhereSCC also rapid (weeks to months), BCC takes longer even yearsFlat, slightly raised or nodular, continue to growskin coloured or pink, also may be pigmented, red. BCC may be shiny & you may see blood vesselsMay be a central ulcer. SCC often has a collar of red tissue around the base