Want to know what Meniere's disease is and the causes?

We asked the National Institutes of Health for answers to basic questions.

We know: All About Meniere's Disease

What is Meniere's disease?

Ménière's Disease is an abnormality of the inner ear causing a host of symptoms, including vertigo or severe dizziness, tinnitus or a roaring sound in the ears, fluctuating hearing loss, and the sensation of pressure or pain in the affected ear. The disorder usually affects only one ear and is a common cause of hearing loss.

What are the symptoms of Meniere's disease?

The symptoms occur suddenly and can arise daily or as infrequently as once a year. Vertigo typically involves a whirling dizziness that forces the sufferer to lie down. Vertigo attacks can lead to severe nausea, vomiting, and sweating and often come with little or no warning.

Some individuals with Ménière's disease have attacks that start with tinnitus (ear noises), a loss of hearing, or a full feeling or pressure in the affected ear.

What are the causes of Meniere's disease?

The symptoms of Ménière's disease are associated with a change in fluid volume within a portion of the inner ear known as the labyrinth. The labyrinth has two parts: the bony labyrinth and the membranous labyrinth. The membranous labyrinth, which is encased by bone, is necessary for hearing and balance and is filled with a fluid called endolymph.

Many experts on Ménière's disease think that a rupture of the membranous labyrinth allows the endolymph to mix with another inner ear fluid that occupies the space between the membranous labyrinth and the bony inner ear, causing the symptoms of Ménière's disease.

How is the disease diagnonsed?

Proper diagnosis of Ménière's disease entails several procedures, including a medical history interview and a physical examination by a physician, hearing and balance tests, and medical imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How is Ménière's disease treated?

There is no cure for Ménière's disease. However, the symptoms of the disease are often controlled successfully by reducing the body's retention of fluids through dietary changes (such as a low-salt or salt-free diet and no caffeine or alcohol) or medication.

Changes in medications that either control allergies or improve blood circulation in the inner ear may help. Eliminating tobacco use and reducing stress levels are more ways some people can lessen the severity of their symptoms.

Different surgical procedures have been advocated for patients with persistent, debilitating vertigo from Ménière's disease. Also, recently, the administration of the ototoxic antibiotic, gentamycin directly into the middle ear space has gained popularity worldwide for the control of the vertigo of Ménière's disease.

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