Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear characterized by recurrent spells of vertigo (spinning sensation), hearing loss, tinnitus (ear noise) and a full feeling in the ear. The average age of onset of Meniere’s is around 50 and the underlying cause is unknown.
The inner ear has fluid-filled chambers and canals, which send information from the inner ear to the brain to interpret your body’s position, movement and to maintain balance. A Meniere’s “attack” occurs when the properties of the inner ear fluid become altered. The symptoms (below) begin suddenly and the severity of each spell varies.
The symptoms of Meniere’s typically include recurrent vertigo spells lasting 20 minutes to several hours, low frequency (pitch) hearing loss, roaring tinnitus and a sense of fullness or pressure in the involved ear. Early on, hearing may improve between attacks but repeat attacks often lead to some degree of permanent hearing loss. Meniere’s generally affects only one ear, but may affect both ears in at least 20% of those affected.
There is no cure for Meniere’s disease, but most will do well with some lifestyle changes and medication. Reducing sodium (salt) in the diet and the use of diuretics (water pills) may reduce vertigo symptoms and prevent recurrent attacks. Other factors that may influence Meniere’s attacks include alcohol, caffeine, smoking and stress. If symptoms are not adequately controlled by reduced salt intake, diuretic medication, and lifestyle changes, there are several surgical procedure options that may be effective in controlling symptoms.
Unfortunately, Meniere’s disease is a condition that is over-diagnosed, meaning that many are diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, but they don’t actually have it. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Meniere’s and do not have significant hearing loss in one ear and/or are under the age of 40, consider obtaining a second opinion. Most who are incorrectly diagnosed with Meniere’s are suffering from Vestibular Migraines and there are many effective treatment options available for Vestibular Migraine.
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