Meniere's Disease

Information on the causes and symptoms of Meniere's disease and how to help

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  1. What is Meniere's Disease?
  2. What Causes Meniere's Disease?
  3. Diagnosing Meniere's Disease
  4. Help for Meniere's Disease
  5. More Information on Meniere's Disease

What is Meniere's Disease?

Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear that causes hearing and balance problems. People with this condition may experience episodes of vertigo (dizziness or a spinning sensation), tinnitus (loud ring or roaring sound in the ears), feeling of pressure in the ears and temporary or permanent hearing loss. Symptoms do not occur all the time and Meniere’s disease usually only affects one ear. This condition occurs gradually, with the person either experiencing sudden attacks of vertigo or loss of hearing. It affects both men and women and tends to develop between the ages of 40 and 60 years.

Symptoms may be a combination of vertigo, tinnitus or hearing loss. Common symptoms and signs that are present in Meniere’s disease include:

  • Spinning or whirling dizziness (also present in vertigo)
  • Nausea or vomiting (also present in vertigo)
  • Low-pitched ringing or hissing in the ear (also present in tinnitus)
  • Pressure or fullness in the ear (also present in tinnitus)
  • Temporary or permanent loss of hearing
  • Sensitivity to noise

What Causes Meniere's Disease?

The cause of Meniere’s disease is not known but research suggests that there might be an imbalance of fluid in the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for hearing and balance and is made up of a complex collection of chambers within the base of the skull.

These chambers are filled with fluid and then divided by a thin membrane. When extra fluid enters the inner ear, swelling occurs which can rupture the membranes and cause an imbalance in the fluid pressures between the different chambers – and as a result Meniere’s symptoms can occur.

Diagnosing Meniere's Disease

The diagnosis of Meniere’s disease is based on your symptoms, physical exam and a review of your medical history. In addition, hearing and balance tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electrocochleography may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Help for Meniere's Disease

There is no cure for Meniere’s disease but treatment can help to control symptoms. Certain dietary changes such as eating smaller regular meals throughout the day to regulate body fluids, reducing your intake of salt, caffeinated beverages and avoiding prepackaged foods containing MSG can help to regulate body fluids to improve balance. Reducing stress levels and stopping smoking can also make a significant difference in relieving symptoms.

Using medications such as diuretics, vestibular suppressants, motion sickness or anti-nausea medications can ease spinning sensations, nausea and vomiting associated with vertigo. Medications injected into the middle ear may also be effective. A hearing aid may also be recommended. Surgical procedures such as an endolymphatic sac, labyrinthectomy or vestibular neurectomy may be recommended if you experience severe episodes of vertigo from Meniere’s disease.

More Information on Meniere's Disease

Tips to cope with Meniere’s disease

There are a number of things that you can do to cope with Meniere’s disease and these include:

  • Eat a diet that is low in salt as it may help to reduce the symptoms
  • Reduce the intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • Lie down and hold your head very still during an attack of vertigo
  • After you experience an attack, rest first and do not resume normal activities
  • Learn to manage stress and anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation or yoga
  • Avoid triggers such as bright lights, sudden movements, or watching television that can worsen symptoms
  • Prevent falls in your home by using night lights, non-skid mats, and installing grab bars near the toilet and bath tub
  • Stop smoking because it constricts the flow of blood to the inner ear
  • Join a support group where you can find information and learn coping strategies from people with the same condition
  • Use supportive aids such as walking frame or cane in case you lose your balance and to prevent serious injury
  • If you experience frequent attacks of vertigo, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery
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