Meniere's Disease

Ménière’s disease is a leading cause of dizziness and vertigo. It is an inner ear disorder caused by a buildup of fluid in the labyrinth of the inner ear, which contains the balance and hearing organs. Ménière’s disease usually affects people in their 40s and 50s.

Symptoms

The most common symptom associated with Ménière’s disease is vertigo – dizziness and the sensation that the room is spinning, causing a loss of balance. Episodes come on suddenly, without warning, and may be severe. Though usually brief, lasting no more than a few hours, they may persist for as long as 24 hours. Vertigo may be accompanied with nausea and vomiting.

Other symptoms include tinnitus, hearing loss, a feeling of fullness and pressure in the ear, headache, blurry vision, anxiety, trembling, rapid pulse, and diarrhea. Exhaustion often sets in afterwards.

The frequency of attacks is highly variable, and cannot be predicted. They may occur several times a week, or be separated by a few years.

Causes & Treatment

The cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown, though we do understand it results from excess fluid buildup in the inner ear. Possible triggers include improper fluid drainage, abnormal immune response, viral infection, allergies, migraines, head trauma, and genetics. A combination of factors could be responsible.

There is no cure for Ménière’s disease at present, so treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and reducing the severity of attacks. Medications to combat motion sickness and nausea may be prescribed to deal with vertigo. In addition, diuretics may prove useful in reducing the amount of fluid in your body, including the inner ear. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy often helps your body and brain learn to process balance information correctly. Those suffering from hearing loss can be fitted with hearing aids, and a Meniett pulse generator – used to apply pressure to the ear canal through a ventilation tube – can be useful in reducing vertigo, tinnitus and fullness in the ear. Other strategies include middle ear injections and surgery.

Certain lifestyle changes may prove helpful. Modifying your diet to limit salt intake, MSG, and caffeine; giving up tobacco; managing stress; avoiding allergens; and preventing migraines are positive steps to take that help some individuals.