While Meniere's Disease is rare, it still affects around 200,000 people in the U.S. every year. While this disease may begin as mild, it can lead to permanent hearing loss if left untreated. Here is everything you need to know about Meniere's Disease.
What Is Meniere's Disease?
Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause attacks of vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and hearing loss in the affected ear. While Meniere's Disease can affect any age, it is most common in young to middle-aged adulthood. Even though Meniere's can occur in both ears, it most commonly occurs in only one ear. The cause of Meniere's disease is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a problem with the fluid in the inner ear. This fluid helps to regulate pressure in the inner ear and maintain equilibrium. If there is an imbalance in the amount of fluid, it can cause the symptoms of Meniere's disease.
What Are The Effects of Meniere's Disease?
The most common symptom of Meniere's disease is vertigo. This is a sensation of spinning or whirling, even when you are standing still. Vertigo can be so severe that it interferes with your ability to walk, balance function, or the ability to stand. It can last for minutes, hours, or days. The attacks may happen suddenly and without warning. Other symptoms of Meniere's disease include nausea, vomiting, ringing, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. In severe cases, permanent hearing loss may occur.
What Triggers Meniere's Disease?
While the cause of Meniere's is not entirely known, it is believed to be a deep pressure within the inner ear as well as a fluid buildup in the ear canal. Triggers for Meniere's disease are not known, but some possible triggers include:
- Stress: Stressors and other emotional triggers such as lack of sleep or overworking can cause episodes of Meniere's.
- Allergies: Suffering from inhaled and food allergies can trigger Meniere's if the allergy is untreated.
- A blockage causing abnormal fluid drainage: This can be due to a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection.
- Head injury: A head injury can cause an imbalance in the inner ear fluid, resulting in Meniere's disease.
- Earwax buildup: If you have a buildup of ear wax, it can block the ear canal and cause Meniere's.
- Infection: An infection in the inner or middle ear can also trigger Meniere's disease.
- Certain medications: Some medications, such as those for high blood pressure or cancer, can lead to Meniere's disease.
- Changes in barometric pressure: Sudden changes in barometric pressure, such as those experienced when flying or scuba diving, can also trigger an episode of Meniere's.
Genetics: Meniere's disease can run in families, so if you have a family member with the disorder, you may be more likely to develop it
How is Meniere's Disease Diagnosed?
Meniere's disease is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Your doctor may also order tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as a vestibular migraine or labyrinthitis. These tests may include:
- Hearing test
- Balance Test
- Vestibular function test
- MRI scan of the head
- ECOG Scan
Can Meniere's Disease Be Cured?
There is currently no cure for Meniere’s disease. However, there are treatments available that can help to manage the symptoms and lessen the severity and frequency of attacks. These include:
- Diuretics: These medications help to reduce the amount of fluid in the inner ear. This can help to relieve pressure and improve hearing.
- Steroids: These anti-inflammatory medications can help to reduce swelling in the inner ear.
- Antivertigo medications: These drugs can help to relieve vertigo symptoms.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove fluid from the inner ear or to repair a damaged nerve.
Living With Meniere's Disease
Living with Meniere's disease can be difficult. The symptoms can be severe and debilitating. There is no cure, but there are treatments available that can help to manage the symptoms. It is important to work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. You should also try to avoid triggers, such as stress, that may worsen your symptoms.
If you are struggling with Meniere's Disease or other hearing issues, contact Francis Audiology today at (724)-933-3440, or request an appointment with an audiologist directly.