Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect balance through intense bouts of vertigo and may eventually lead to hearing loss, usually in one ear. This disease usually manifests between the ages of 18 and 35 and is more common in women. There are more than 200,000 cases of Meniere's disease in the United States every year.
Causes of Meniere's Disease
The cause of Meniere's disease is unknown. One line of thinking says it may result from a viral infection and the body's reaction to that. Changes in the inner ear, including fluid build-up and a change in fluid consistency, are common and can be further aggravated by allergies, uncharacteristic immune response, head trauma, migraines, smoking and stress. There may also be an inherited component due to a family history of Meniere's.
Symptoms of Meniere's Disease
Symptoms of Meniere's can be constant or may appear intermittently. Common symptoms include:
- Frequent vertigo (dizziness) that may last for hours or as little as 20 minutes.
- Vertigo may cause loss of balance, nausea and vomiting.
- Feelings of pressure or fullness in the ear.
- Tinnitus, a ringing noise in the ear with no external cause.
- Hearing loss, which can come and go (fluctuating) or be progressive and lead to permanent hearing loss.
It is important to note that several of Meniere's disease symptoms overlap with a variety of other illnesses. It is essential to see a doctor to rule out these other possibilities.
Treatment of Meniere's Disease
Currently, there is no cure for Meniere's disease. Treatments strive to treat the vertigo aspect of the disease.
- Motion sickness and anti-nausea medications may provide temporary relief from vertigo symptoms.
- Diuretics may lessen fluid retention in the middle ear.
- Eating a salt-restricted diet may help lessen fluid retention in the middle ear.
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapy is an exercise program that attempts to improve balance and reduce the dizziness caused by vertigo.
- Endolymphatic sac decompression may temporarily fix vertigo by allowing excess fluid to drain. However, fluid build-up reappears in many cases.
- A vestibular nerve section destroys a portion of the vestibulocochlear nerve to keep the affected ear from transmitting balance information to the brain.
- A labyrinthectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of the inner ear. A surgery of last resort, when most or all of the hearing is lost in one ear, this surgery may relieve symptoms of vertigo.
When to See a Physician for Meniere's Disease
Meniere's disease is a serious illness that can cause injury from falls due to dizziness from vertigo. It may also cause hearing loss. However, many other illnesses can cause one or more of the symptoms associated with Meniere's.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important for you to consult an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor to get a diagnosis.