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Ask The Expert

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What is Meniere's Disease?

Meniere's Disease is a condition which consists of the following associated symptoms, vertigo (dizziness), tinnitus (ringing, hissing or buzzing sounds in the ears) and progressive hearing loss (deafness).

Meniere's Disease is caused by a dysfunction of the endolymphatic sac known as the semi-circular canals (labyrinth) found in the inner ear. It is this labyrinth system that consists of small fluid filled channels that are responsible for sending signals of sound and balance to the brain.

Common Symptoms of Meniere's Disease?
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness (feeling that you spinning, even when you are stationary)
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Recurring episodes of Vertigo
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Fullness and pressure in the ear

There are three stages of Meniere's Disease?
  • The early stage - one can experience sudden episodes of vertigo which may last up to 30 minutes or an entire day. Patients often experience nausea, dizziness, vomiting and tinnitus during the early stage.
  • The middle stage - there is episodes of vertigo (not usually severe). Tinnitus and hearing loss seems to get a bit worse and some patients during this stage may experience periods of complete remission whereby their symptoms go away and stay away for a long period of time. This period can last from eight months up to a year.
  • The late stage- vertigo episodes become even less frequent and in some cases never return. Patients do experience balance problems, unsteadiness especially when it's dark, this is due to not having a visual input to help maintain balance. Tinnitus and hearing loss get progressively worse.

Who suffers mostly with Meniere's Disease?

Meniere's Disease can develop at any age; however it most commonly occurs in patients between the age of 40 and 60. Studies also show that approximately 2 in every 1,000 people suffer from Meniere's Disease.

Causes of Meniere's Disease?

The cause of Meniere's Disease is unknown; however symptoms are believed to be related to having too much fluid in the inner ear. Occasionally, this potassium-rich fluid breaks off within the inner ear membrane and leaks into the potassium-poor outer fluid. This mixing causes a chemical reaction that paralyses the bodies balance system in the inner ear until such a time as the fluid balance becomes normal again.

Meniere's Disease generally occurs in only one ear, and it is very rare that both ears become affected.

When to seek Medical Advice?

If you experience any signs or symptoms of Meniere's Disease, you need to visit your ENT (doctor) as it is very important to get the correct diagnosis as soon as possible. Vertigo (which is a symptom of Meniere's Disease) is an uncommon but possible sign of other disorders, such as:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Blood vessels (cardiovascular disease)

Seek medical assistance immediately if vertigo is accompanied by any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Speech impairment
  • Falling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weak limbs (arms or legs)
  • A loss of vision or double vision
  • A slow or rapid heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains

Tips to help manage Meniere's Disease
  • Eat regularly
  • Limit your salt intake
  • Dietary change which should include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Avoid monosodium glutamate
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Stop smoking
  • Manage stress and anxiety

Medication for Meniere's Disease

Menieres Disease is an unpredictable disease that requires various types of treatment including:

  • Antihistamines
  • Sedative-hypnotics
  • Anticholinergics
  • Anti-emetic agents
  • Anti-nausea (diazepam)
  • Atropine or scopolamine (to relax)
  • Water pills (diuretics) to relieve vertigo.


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