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Frequently Asked Questions About Relapsing Polychondritis (RP)

Have questions about RP? You’re not alone. Here are some of the basics to help you get up to speed with this often misunderstood condition.


It depends on the patient. There is a great deal of variation in the severity of the disease from person to person. Many individuals may have mild symptoms, which recur infrequently, while others may have persistent problems that become debilitating or life-threatening. At this time, it is not known how to predict the course of relapsing polychondritis for an individual.

Treatment for relapsing polychondritis is approached similarly to other autoimmune diseases. A team approach is very helpful in treating this disease as it can involve many organs. Initial treatment usually includes prednisone, and further medical treatment should be under the supervision of a rheumatologist and may include other medications. Treatment of eye disease should be done in consultation with an ophthalmologist, and those individuals with respiratory symptoms may need to be followed by an otolaryngologist or pulmonologist.

Although RP is rare, medical research is being conducted in the U.S. and Japan to try to expand understanding of the disease. The current data about the cause and nature of the disease, as well as the best treatment approach, is very limited. In order to improve patient outcomes with RP, research is necessary to gain a better understanding of the disease, develop a classification of disease severity, and to develop better treatment options. That’s why we invest so heavily in research.

Relapsing polychondritis is an uncommon disease that affects approximately 3-5 individuals per million people. RP affects both men and women. It can affect individuals of all ages – it has been diagnosed in childhood and as late as age 80, but it most frequently occurs midlife. Most patients begin to experience symptoms between the ages of 40 and 60.

You should talk to your doctor about being referred to a rheumatologist, a specialist in treating conditions such as RP, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. The rheumatologist may need to perform different tests to rule out other conditions.

Help Us Fuel the Race for RP Research

In the coming years, we’ll learn more about Relapsing Polychondritis (RP) and related autoimmune diseases. But we can’t do it without the support of generous individuals and organizations willing to fuel research that will drive breakthroughs. Join us in our race for a cure.