What is Meniere’s disease?
Meniere’s disease is a problem in the inner ear. It can cause severe dizziness (vertigo) and hearing loss. It usually affects just one ear, but it can happen in both ears. The symptoms can be mild or severe. Although the dizziness can be very disabling, it can usually be controlled. There can be a significant hearing loss, but complete deafness is rare.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are:
- pressure or fullness in the ear
- ringing in the ear
- hearing loss.
These symptoms may come and go. They usually last for hours or days. There may be times when you do not have any symptoms for weeks, months, or years.
How does it occur?
Deep inside the skull lies the inner ear, made up of the fluid-filled tubes of the hearing and balance organs. If there is too much pressure inside these tubes, your hearing or sense of balance can be affected. What causes the build-up of fluid and pressure is not known.
How is it diagnosed?
You will be asked about your medical history. You will have a physical exam of your eyes, ears, and nervous system. A simple test of your hearing, called an audiogram, will probably be done. Because there is no single test for diagnosing Meniere’s disease, you may have to try different medicines to see if any of them help your symptoms improve or go away. You may also need an MRI scan of your ear and brain to make sure there are no tumors causing your symptoms.
What is the treatment?
- Low-salt diet. A low-salt diet can help prevent your body from storing too much water.
- Stop using caffeine or nicotine.
- Medications to improve circulation to the inner ear (e.g. Betaserc)
- Medications to reduce the dizziness (e.g. Stemetil)
- Hearing aids if there is hearing loss
In severe cases you may need surgery to control the dizziness. One type of minor surgery involves injection of a medication into the ear that numbs the inner ear.
How long will the effects of Meniere’s disease last?
An attack may last a few minutes, hours, or days. Attacks may come every few days or every few years. Often Meniere’s disease is a mild illness and occurs just once. Sometimes symptoms last all your life. In these cases the dizziness or hearing loss can be very disabling, making work or everyday tasks quite difficult.
How can I take care of myself?
- Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for medicine, physical therapy, diet, and activity.
- Lie down and rest during an attack of Meniere’s.
- Protect your hearing from loud noises such as loud equipment on the job and loud music.
- Call your doctor if you are having new symptoms or your symptoms are getting worse.
How can I prevent Meniere’s disease?
Because the cause of Meniere’s disease is not known, there is nothing you can do to prevent it.