Meniere's Disease
(Meniere Disease)

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Meniere's disease facts

  • Meniere's disease is a disorder of the flow of fluids of the inner ear.
  • Symptoms of Meniere's disease often fluctuate and include ringing, ear fullness, hearing loss, and poor equilibrium.
  • Diagnosis of Meniere's disease is usually based on history and exam, though other tests can be used.
  • Treatments for Meniere's disease include diet and life style changes, medications, and surgery.

What is Meniere's disease?

Meniere's disease is a disorder of the flow of fluids of the inner ear.

What causes Meniere's disease?

Although the cause of Meniere's disease is unknown, it probably results from an abnormality in the way fluid of the inner ear is regulated. In most cases only one ear is involved, but both ears may be affected in about 15% of patients. Meniere's disease typically starts between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age (although it has been reported in nearly all age groups). Men and women are equally affected. The symptoms may be only a minor nuisance, or can become disabling, especially if the attacks of vertigo are severe, frequent, and occur without warning. Meniere's disease is also called idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops.

What are the symptoms of Meniere's disease?

The symptoms of Meniere's disease typically include at least several of the following:

  • Episodic rotational vertigo: Attacks of a spinning sensation accompanied by disequilibrium (an off-balanced sensation), nausea, and sometimes vomiting. This is usually the most troublesome symptom. The vertigo usually last 20 minutes to four hours or longer. During attacks, patients are very disabled, and sleepiness may follow. An off-balanced sensation may last for several days.
  • Tinnitus: A roaring, buzzing, machine-like, or ringing sound in the ear. It may be episodic with an attack of vertigo or it may be constant. Usually the tinnitus gets worse or will appear just before the onset of the vertigo.
  • Hearing loss: It may be intermittent early in the onset of the disease, but overtime it may become a fixed hearing loss. It may involve all frequencies, but most commonly occurs in the lower frequencies. Loud sounds may be uncomfortable and appear distorted in the affected ear.
  • Ear fullness: Usually this full feeling occurs just before the onset of an attack of vertigo.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/11/2013

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Meniere's Disease Treatment

What Are Some of the Treatment Options for Meniere's Disease?

Meniere's disease does not have a cure yet, but your doctor might recommend some of the treatments below to help you cope with the condition.

  • Medications. The most disabling symptom of an attack of Meniere's disease is dizziness. Prescription drugs such as meclizine, diazepam, glycopyrrolate, and lorazepam can help relieve dizziness and shorten the attack.
  • Salt restriction and diuretics. Limiting dietary salt and taking diuretics (water pills) help some people control dizziness by reducing the amount of fluid the body retains, which may help lower fluid volume and pressure in the inner ear.
  • Other dietary and behavioral changes. Some people claim that caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol make their symptoms worse and either avoid or limit them in their diet. Not smoking also may help lessen the symptoms.
  • Cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps people focus on how they interpret and react to life experiences. Some people find that cognitive therapy helps them cope better with the unexpected nature of attacks and reduces their anxiety about future attacks.
  • Injections. Injecting the antibiotic gentamicin into the middle ear helps control vertigo but significantly raises the risk of hearing loss because gentamicin can damage the microscopic hair cells in the inner ear that help us hear. Some doctors inject a corticosteroid instead, which often helps reduce dizziness and has no risk of hearing loss.

SOURCE: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health. Meniere's Disease.


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