What is Ménière's Disease?
Ménière's Disease is characterized by vertigo, hearing loss, pressure or fullness in the ear and tinnitus. The patient can suffer from serious, unpredictable and very disturbing attacks which may last anything from two to twenty-four hours.
Signs of Ménière's Disease
A list of symptoms is related to Ménière's disease. No two patients with Ménière's disease are alike. Nevertheless, below is a list of specific symptoms related to Ménière's disease:
- The symptoms of hearing loss often occur around the time of the attacks of vertigo.
- The symptoms may be experienced in only one ear, not both.
- Often the patient feels that there is a pressure in the affected ear before or during the attack.
- An attack usually lasts from two to twenty-four hours.
There are periods of relief from Ménière´s disease. During these periods, the patient feels quite well.
Causes of Ménière's disease
Ménière's disease is chronic and related to endolymphatic hydrops, excess fluid in the inner ear. When the lymphatic system is dilated, it can affect the drainage of endolymph, the fluid covering the ears hearing and balance structures, leading to Ménière's disease. It may result from damage to the head, deterioration of the inner ear, infections, allergies, or it may occur for unknown reasons. If this continues, the increase in pressure can seriously affect a person's balance and hearing.
Ménière's disease is unfortunately not uncommon. It has been estimated that approximately one in two thousand people suffer from it and is found equally frequently in men and women. Typically, it affects people aged 40 to 50. But it may begin as early as in childhood or as late as above the age of 60.
Treatment of Ménière's disease
Ménières disease cannot be treated or cured. But medicine can in many cases be used for reducing dizziness.
How to live with Ménière's Disease
You can learn to live with the disease, and certain things can be done to minimise the effects of Ménière's.
- Stress reduction is important to many Menières patients, as emotional stress is commonly believed to trigger attacks.
- Exercising and keeping in shape to the extent possible while suffering from dizziness are important for reducing stress.
- Because of the increase in fluid pressure in the inner ear most patients benefit from reducing their intake of salt. Some specialists recommend keeping the general fluid intake down and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and chocolate.
- Medical drugs, such as Serc (betahistine) and Vastarel, help many patients. Others benefit from taking antihistamines and diuretics. But no two cases of Ménière’s are alike, and it is important to consult with medical specialists.
- Some patients benefit greatly from an easily portable compression equaliser the size of a mobile telephone. Holding the device close to the ear, pressure waves are directed into the middle ear via the eardrum. To work, the device requires that a drain be placed in the ear.
- Gentamycin treatment is also known as effective. Injecting Gentamycin (an antibiotic) into the middle ear negates the sense of balance in the affected ear, preventing further spells of dizziness. Some risk of further hearing loss is associated with this treatment.
If none of the above treatments works, the patient may be a candidate for a vestibular neurectomy, a cut through the balancing nerve. However, this is a complicated and rarely performed procedure in the skull.