Meniere's disease occurs in the inner ear and causes dizziness, temporary hearing loss, and/or ringing and pressure in the ears. Attacks happen suddenly and can be as brief as 20 minutes or as long as several hours. Symptoms include a continuous, low-pitched noise or feeling of pressure in the ear.
Vertigo, a spinning sensation, is a troublesome symptom of Meniere's disease that can cause nausea and vomiting. When vertigo occurs, the person affected should lie down and hold his or her head still until the attack passes. Medications are also available to reduce vertigo.
Although the cause of Meniere's disease is unknown, doctors relate the condition to a fluid imbalance in the inner ear. Meniere's disease affects both men and women and usually starts between the ages of 40 and 60. Symptoms usually occur in just one ear, but over time both ears may be affected. Although there is no cure, treatments can be effective to lessen the symptoms. Those diagnosed with Meniere's disease are restricted from having a commercial driver's license in the U.S.
Treatments for Meniere's disease include medications to reduce dizziness and the accumulation of fluid in the inner ear. Diuretics are frequently prescribed to reduce the fluid. Other medicines, including antihistamines and sedatives, are effective in calming the inner ear. Anti-anxiety drugs can help to reduce the number of attacks for some patients.
Dietary changes are helpful to some sufferers, as well. Specifically, a low-sodium diet can reduce the amount of fluid that builds up in the ear. Exercise to improve balance can also be helpful to some. Those with Meniere's disease should also avoid conditions or substances that trigger an attack; some possible triggers include monosodium glutamate (MSG), sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
Repeated attacks of Meniere's disease can cause hearing loss, so someone with symptoms should consult his or her doctor about reducing the attacks. If other treatments are not effective, surgery can be an option. The challenge of surgery is to eradicate the symptoms of the disease without risking hearing loss in the affected ear.
Although the cause of Meniere's disease is unknown, risk factors can include a head injury, viral infection of the inner ear, or allergies. Some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and lupus, might increase the risk of Meniere's disease. Anther risk factors is having a family member with the condition. To diagnose Meniere's disease, a doctor will perform a physical exam and ask for a medical history. Some doctors will also order hearing or imaging tests.