Meniere’s Disease

What is Meniere’s Disease?

A disorder affecting the inner ear with no exact known cause, Meniere’s Disease is usually chronic and may become life-disrupting. It usually first shows up in patients between the ages of 20 and 60, and may come and go over the years. It mainly causes vertigo, temporary hearing loss (which can become permanent over time) and tinnitus (continuous ringing).

Risk factors

  • Injuries to the head or ear
  • A family history of the disorder
  • Autoimmune disorders or viruses
  • Viral infections in the ear
  • Chronic allergies that spread from the sinuses to the ear

What are the Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease?

Meniere’s disease causes the fluid in the inner ear to build up and put too much pressure on the most sensitive parts of your ear.

Symptoms include

  • Vertigo, which involves sensations of spinning or tipping over
  • Permanent or temporary loss of hearing at any level
  • Uncomfortable sensations of pressure in the ear
  • Constant noises like hissing or crackling, also known as tinnitus

Hearing loss can progress and become permanent.

Meniere’s Disease Causes

The common cause of Meniere’s Disease is excessive volume of fluid and poor drainage of it from the inner ear. However, most suspect there to be other underlying conditions leading to the disorder. Other conditions involve infections, head trauma, environmental and sometimes a dysfunctional immune system.

Autoimmune diseases like Meniere’s disease cause the antibodies or immune cells to attack the inner ear. The action is triggered by stress, fatigue or an illness, causing a loss of hearing followed with ringing sounds which last for several months.

Lifestyle choices are associated with this condition – dietary changes include low salt or processes foods with no alcohol or caffeine. Emotional tragedy can also bring on an episode without warning and diminish for months or years before occurring again.

How is Meniere’s Disease Treated?

Since Meniere’s disease is not caused by an infection or specific problem with the ear’s shape, it can be difficult to treat. Similar symptoms can arise due to a tumor on the nerves responsible for either balance or hearing.

Treatments include

After ruling out an alternative diagnosis, medications are prescribed to control the tinnitus, vertigo, and other symptoms.

Some patients have antibiotics and steroids injected into the ear, but this treatment doesn’t work for everyone. Equipment that produces a small pulse of air to clear the space behind the ear drum provides relief from symptoms in many cases. For the most severe and disabling cases of tinnitus and vertigo, surgery allows the doctor to remove some of the affected nerve tissue to control the symptoms. Shunts to drain excess fluid may also work.

Meniere’s Disease┬áPrevention

There is no cure for Meniere’s disease or any prevention of the hearing loss that occurs. There are several treatments to lessen the episodes causing vertigo.

Although genetics may show frequency of this disorder in your family, science hasn’t confirmed an inherited gene linked to the condition. Yet family medical records are important and your doctor should be informed about any hereditary dispositions. The family’s past information is helpful to understanding the cause and effect of this disease.

A change in your diet will help with the reduction of body fluids to prevent frequent occurrences of the condition. Your doctor may also prescribe medications that reduce the pressure on the inner ear. In some instances, depending on the severity of the disease, your doctor may recommend medications for motion sickness and nausea.

Since this condition is long term, regular visits with your doctor are essential for monitoring each episode and preventing further damage to the inner ear. Your doctor will decide when aggressive treatments are necessary.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
March 07, 2018