Meniere’s Disease: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear. In most cases, Meniere’s disease affects only one ear. People with Meniere’s may suffer from sudden dizzy spells or muffled hearing. It is considered a chronic condition. Meniere’s disease is a common cause of hearing loss and the hearing loss eventually can be permanent. Meniere’s disease can occur at any age, but it usually starts between young and middle-aged adulthood. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 615,000 people in the United States have Meniere’s disease.

Causes

The
exact cause of Meniere’s disease is not yet known. Scientists believed that it
has something to do with high pressure of the fluid in tubes of the inner ear. Potential
risk factors include:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Abnormal immune response
  • Allergies
  • Respiratory infection
  • Viral infection
  • Head injury
  • Genetic predisposition

Symptoms

The
symptoms of Meniere’s disease vary dramatically from person to person. Common
symptoms and signs include:

  • Vertigo
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Aural fullness
  • Loss of balance
  • Headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting, and sweating

Diagnosis

If you
have symptoms of Meniere’s disease, the doctor will order several tests to rule
out the causes of your symptoms:

  • Hearing test (audiometry)

A
hearing test is used to assess how well you detect sounds at different pitches
and volumes and how well you distinguish between similar-sounding words. In
this test, you will put on headphones and indicate when you can and cannot hear
a tone, so the doctor can determine if you have hearing loss.

  • Balance tests

Balance
tests are performed to test the function of the inner ear. People who have
Meniere’s disease have a reduced balance response in one of their ears.

  • Electronystagmography (ENG)

It is the most commonly used balance test. In this test, the patient has electrodes placed around the eyes to detect eye movement, because the balance response in the inner ear causes eye movements. Besides, both hot and cold water will be pushed into the ear. The water causes balance function to work. The involuntary eye movements will be tracked. Any abnormalities can indicate a problem with the inner ear.

  • Rotary chair testing

It measures inner ear function based on eye movement. You sit in a computer-controlled rotating chair, which stimulates your inner ear. It will show your doctor whether the problem is caused by an issue in your ear or your brain. But it is used less often.

  • Vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP) testing

It measures the sound sensitivity of the vestibule of the inner ear, monitoring Meniere’s disease. It can show characteristic changes in the affected ears of people with Meniere’s disease.

  • Other tests

The doctor may order blood tests and imaging scans such as an MRI or CT scan to rule out disorders that can cause similar problems as Meniere’s disease, such as a tumor in the brain or multiple sclerosis.

Treatment

There
is no cure for Meniere’s disease. However, a number of treatments can help
reduce the severity and frequency of the symptoms. But, unfortunately, there is
any treatment for the hearing loss.

  • Medications

The
doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms of Meniere’s
disease.

Diuretics: To reduce fluid in the ear, doctors might prescribe a diuretic that keeps your body from retaining fluids. If you take a diuretic, the doctor will ask you to cut the amount of salt in your diet.

Steroids: If your doctor thinks you
have an underlying immune system problem, you might take a short course of
steroids.

  • Physical therapy

Vestibular
rehabilitation exercises can improve symptoms of vertigo. These exercises help
to train your brain to account for the difference in balance between your two
ears.

  • Hearing aids

Hearing
aids can improve your affected ear and further treat hearing loss.

  • Surgery

In
some cases, patients won’t respond to the above treatments or have severe
attacks. They may need surgeries, such as endolymphatic sac shunt surgery, vestibular
nerve sectioning, cochleosacculotomy and labyrinthectomy.

Before taking any treatment options, it is advisable to ask your doctor for safe and correct advice.

Keywords: Meniere’s disease

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