What is Meniere’s Disease?
Meniere’s disease affects the inner ear, causing hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus and a feeling of congestion in the ear. Meniere’s disease usually only affects one ear and develops at any age, but is usually seen in adults over the age of 40. However, with all of the information present about Meniere’s disease, there is no known cause. It is believed that the cause could be from AIED (autoimmune inner ear disease), blood restrictions from headaches or migraines, viral infection, or genetics. Whatever the originating cause, this disease can be painful and frustrating to have.
Symptoms of Meniere’s disease are hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus and a feeling of congestion in the ear. These symptoms are caused by a buildup of fluid in the inner ear causing problems with balance and hearing. Symptoms can also vary in type and severity, depending on the type of attack a person is having from the disease. These attacks can be occasional or frequent and can start off mild and gradually or instantly increase in frequency and severity.
Meniere’s disease is typically diagnosed by an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor or an otolaryngologist). That being said, there is no single test to diagnose the disease. Diagnosis is made based on previous and current medical history, along with a single or combination of the following symptoms: two or more vertigo attacks lasting twenty or more minutes, tinnitus, hearing loss, and congestion or a feeling of fullness in the ear. Sometimes it may be recommended that an x-ray, MRI or CT scan be performed.
There is no known cure at this time for the disease; however, there are treatments that help with the symptoms created by the disease. Medications are sometimes used to treat some of the symptoms, such as vertigo or tinnitus. Dietary changes are sometimes put into place like reducing or eliminating caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, salt and diuretics. These restrictions sometimes help in the decrease of intensity and/or frequency of attacks and symptoms.
Cognitive therapy is a type of talk therapy used to help a person talk about the attacks and symptoms to better able the person to handle them in the future. Injections are used to help control the vertigo a person is experiencing. An antibiotic is injected into the person’s middle ear; however, caution should be exercised here as it has been known to cause more permanent hearing loss in the future. Pressure pulse treatment is a newer treatment where a person wears a device on the outer ear that delivers air pressure pulses to the middle ear to help in preventing vertigo. Surgery may also be performed to help in reliving the pressure in the inner ear. Alternative medicines are used by some such as acupuncture, acupressure, tai chi or herbal supplements to help decrease the severity and/or frequency of attacks and symptoms.
Though there is no official cure, many people with Meniere’s disease are able to lead normal functioning lives through the use of many of the treatments mentioned above. They have been able to decrease, if not eliminate almost all together, their attacks and/or symptoms associated with the disease. Research is still being done to hopefully find the root cause of the disease in order to find a more permanent cure.