Meniere’s disease is an ear disorder that affects an estimated 600,000 people in the US alone. With about 40,000 new cases per year, this chronic condition targets both men and women with a higher incidence among those who are 40 to 50 years old.
What is Meniere’s Disease?
Meniere’s disease is a condition that occurs in the inner ear. Because the inner ear takes care of balance and sound detection, these two are the most affected. Nausea, dizziness, and even vertigo are the most common symptoms. In almost all cases, Meniere’s disease only occurs in one ear.
This chronic condition was first discovered in 1861. It was French physician Prosper Meniere who identified this ear disorder and wrote about it extensively in an article. He was also the first to suggest that this condition most probably was linked to an inner ear problem rather than the brain which was the common belief at that time. Because of this, the condition was named after him.
Meniere’s Disease Symptoms
The curious thing about Meniere’s disease is that it comes on as suddenly as it disappears. Attacks happen intermittently with little to no warning. Below are some of the most common symptoms of this condition:
Because the inner ear is the main target of this disease, the body’s balance, as a consequence, gets thrown off. Vertigo episodes may linger anywhere from a couple of minutes to an excruciating 24 hours.
With an impaired inner ear, sound detection goes awry as well. Most people living with Meniere’s disease experience Tinnitus or this persistent sensation of ringing in the ear. While this can happen from time to time even without the disease, it becomes a cause for concern if it happens frequently and in a prolonged manner. Take note of your symptoms so you can act accordingly.
3. Loss of balance
As mentioned earlier, with the inner ear as the overseer of keeping our bodies in balance, at the onset of Meniere’s disease, this gets thrown off. This can cause loss of balance with other possible complications such as nausea, vomiting, headache, sweating, and intense vertigo.
4. Aural fullness
This feeling is akin to putting earplugs in your ear. It is as if your ear is stuffed and the sound coming out is muffled.
5. Loss of hearing
In extreme cases, there have been reports of loss of hearing in the affected ear.
If you have noticed the following symptoms recurring from time to time, it is best to see your physician for proper diagnosis and appropriate medical intervention.
Meniere’s Disease Causes
Unfortunately, researches have yet to pinpoint the main cause of this condition. There have been many suggestions that show a causal link between the disease and the changes in the fluid of the tubes of the inner ear. Other theories include allergies, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and genetics.
Meniere’s Disease Diagnosis
Doctors can perform various tests to ascertain whether your condition is Meniere’s disease or not. Mostly, they would administer tests that involve balance and hearing. Called audiometry, it is used to identify whether the person who gave his/her consent to it is experiencing hearing loss.
Physicians mostly use the test electronystagmography to test your balance. This is a study used to evaluate patients with dizziness, vertigo, and other concerns regarding balance. This test is sensory in nature. Electrodes are placed on each of your eyes. These will measure your reactions to various external stimuli like light and motion. Other balance tests include videonystagmography, rotary chair testing, vestibular evoked myogenic potentials, posturography, video head impulse test, and electrocochleography.
Meniere’s Disease Treatment
There is no known cure for Meniere’s disease. It is a simple case of having it or not. What is readily available is how to treat the symptoms.
- For vertigo, the doctor might prescribe motion sickness medication or its anti-nausea counterpart. You might want to check with your physician regarding the best brand to counter Meniere’s disease-induced vertigo.
- For those having difficulty with balance, physical therapy can help improve your situation.
- Since sound detection is also a problem, a hearing aid will definitely come handy.
- You can also opt for middle ear injections. Ask your physician what is the safest with the least side effects.
- Finally, there’s surgery. There is a procedure that reduces the fluid in the inner ear which can potentially cause vertigo This is called endolymphatic sac procedure. There are still other invasive procedures that can improve your situation. Vestibular nerve section, for example, corrects problems with vertigo by cutting the nerve that bridges inner ear and movement sensors. There’s also labyrinthectomy. This is done when the inner ear of the affected ear is completely damaged. Here, the doctor practically removes the part of the inner ear that oversees balance. This way, vertigo will never be a problem.
Meniere’s Disease Diet and Lifestyle
Research has proven that by avoiding some types of food, you can actually keep the symptoms of this chronic condition at bay. To do just that, it is suggested that you steer clear from:
- Monosodium glutamate
- Carbonated drinks
Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day is very beneficial as well.
Lifestyle also has a huge impact on keeping symptoms of Meniere’s disease under control. Persons living with this condition are encouraged to do the following:
- Eat regularly.
- Drink enough liquid a day.
- Rest especially at the onset of vertigo
- Slow down to avoid stress and anxiety.
- Quit smoking and alcohol.
When it comes to Meniere’s disease, early detection is very important. This way, appropriate medical intervention can take place. Hearing loss, while possible in the long run, is not always the case. Consult your doctor to assess your case and to come up with an appropriate plan of action to reduce the symptoms.