by Ron Kurtus (revised 17 January 2020))
Meniere disease is a disorder in your inner ear that includes symptoms of vertigo, tinnitus and some loss of hearing.
These symptoms may be only a minor nuisance, but they can become disabling if the attacks of vertigo are severe. The cause of Meniere disease seems to be an abnormality in the way fluid of the inner ear is regulated.
You need a physical examination to properly diagnose the disease. Treatment to control Meniere disease consists of medication and diet changes.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the symptoms of Meniere disease?
- How is the disease diagnosed?
- How can Meniere disease be treated?
This lesson will answer those questions. Health Disclaimer
The symptoms of Meniere disease typically include vertigo, tinnitus, or some hearing loss. In most cases only one ear is involved. Meniere disease typically starts between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age, with men and women equally affected.
Note that each of these symptoms also can occur by themselves due to other ailments.
Vertigo is a common and the most troublesome symptom of Meniere disease. These attacks can cause you to experience a spinning sensation or feeling of losing your balance. The vertigo attack is uncomfortable and sometimes results in nausea and even vomiting. Vertigo can last from 20 minutes to two hours or longer. An off-balanced sensation may last for several days.
Usually, you have a feeling of fullness in your ears just before the onset of an attack of vertigo.
(See Vertigo for more information.)
Another symptom is of Meniere disease is tinnitus. This is a ringing, roaring, or buzzing sound in your ear. You may get this symptom with an attack of vertigo, or you may constantly hear the noises. Usually, the tinnitus will get worse or appear just before the onset of the vertigo.
(See Tinnitus for more information.)
You may occasionally suffer a loss in hearing in the early stage of the disease. But over time, you may have constant hearing loss. Sometimes the loss of hearing involves all frequencies, but most it commonly occurs in the lower frequencies. Loud sounds may be uncomfortable and appear distorted in your affected ear.
A physical examination—including a study of your medical history—is require for a diagnosis of Meniere disease. The doctor will evaluate your symptoms. Often an audiogram is used to check if you have a hearing loss, as well as to rule out other problems.
Early in the onset of the disease, the results of the hearing test between the attacks will be normal. But later, it may show a permanent hearing loss.
Other tests such as the auditory brain stem response (ABR), a computerized test of the hearing nerves and brain pathways, computer tomography (CT) or, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed to rule out a tumor occurring on the hearing or balance nerve. These tumors are rare, but they can cause symptoms similar to Meniere's disease.
Treatment for Meniere disease usually consists of a change in diet and lifestyle, medications, and sometimes surgery. Although there is no real cure for Meniere disease, the attacks of vertigo can be controlled in nearly all cases. If you have vertigo attacks without warning, you should not drive and avoid such activities as climbing ladders and swimming.
Diet and lifestyle
A low salt diet is very helpful to reduce the attacks of vertigo. In fact, a meal high in salt, may induce an attack. You should also avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol. You can often decrease the frequency of attacks and the tinnitus by getting regular sleep, remaining physically active, avoiding stress and excessive fatigue.
A diuretic such as dyazide, combined with a low salt diet, is the primary medical treatment of Meniere disease. Anti-vertigo medications such as Antiver or Valium may provide temporary relief during the attacks of vertigo. Anti-nausea medications are sometimes also prescribed. But both the anti-vertigo and anti-nausea medications may cause you to be drowsy after taking them.
If vertigo attacks are not controlled medically and are disabling, there are several surgical procedures available, depending on your situation and recommendation of your physician.
Meniere disease is a disorder of the inner ear. Symptoms of Meniere disease include ringing, ear fullness, hearing loss, and poor equilibrium. Diagnosis of Meniere disease is usually based on history and exam, though other tests can be used. Treatments for Meniere disease include diet and life-style changes, medications, and surgery.
Lead a healthy lifestyle
Resources and references
Meniere Disease - MedicineNet article
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