Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicis.

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

What is Chondrodermatitis?

Chondrodermatis Nodular Helicis (CNH) is a mouthful. CNH can be regarded as a synonym of Chondrodermatitis so we’ll just refer to CNH as “Chondrodermatitis.”

The pink nodule is found on the sun-exposed area of the outer ear. The nodule is tender and may therefore disturb sleep when lying on that side.

It’s not known exactly what causes it. However, it is known that only small blood vessels in the dermis supply the outer skin (epidermis), the dermis & cartilage. There is little padding under the skin of the ear & it is thought that cold, chronic sun exposure, trauma or pressure from lying on that side may trigger inflammation of the skin of the ear.

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

The problem in Australia is that Skin Cancers are also very common on the ear, particularly SCC & BCC, and they can look similar to Chondrodermatitis.

How does Chondrodermatitis differ from Skin Cancers?

There are features that make Chondrodermatitis more likely than a skin cancer & may make a biopsy unnecessary. It’s important to take into account overall risk of skin cancer.

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