Posted on Monday, March 26, 2012

Meniere's Disease: Causes and Symptoms

Couple looks off into the distance, contemplating Meniere's Disease.

If you have ever suffered from vertigo—the sense that the world is moving around you, you know there isn’t much you can do until the feeling passes. People afflicted with Meniere’s disease are confronted with severe vertigo that can leave them wheelchair bound. Meniere’s disease (named after French physician Prosper Meniere) is a disorder of the inner ear with symptoms that include incapacitating vertigo, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in ears), pressure in the ears, and varying degrees of intermittent hearing loss. This disease can happen in people of any age, even children, but becomes more common as people grow older. Causes of Meniere's are debated to this day, but medical science leans toward certain discernible factors.

Meniere’s disease is a mysterious condition that can cause debilitating vertigo and varying degrees of serious and physically draining symptoms.

Meniere’s is a mysterious disease. It is such a puzzle to physicians that there is no definitive test to diagnose Meniere’s. It is diagnosed by excluding other causes and by giving patients a hearing test. A patient is said to have this condition if they have symptoms, have undergone physical tests to corroborate them, and there is no other known cause for their condition. If a patient has symptoms and knows what caused those symptoms, then Meniere's can be excluded. Research into causes for this disease has produced some theories. Below is a list of things Meniere's has been associated with:

Genetics—There is a slightly higher risk of developing Meniere’s if someone in your family has it.

Endolymphatic Hydrops—refers to buildup of pressure inside the ears and can be thought of as both a symptom and a cause. According to the California Ear Institute, "Individuals who have Meniere’s disease have a very severe form of endolymphatic hydrops, but individuals with endolymphatic hydrops do not always progress to Meniere’s disease."

Nerve Pressure—some physicians believe pressure on 8th cranial nerve to be a factor in this condition.

Autoimmune Disease—recent research has shown that there is a high prevalence of Meniere’s among people with autoimmune diseases.

Ototoxicity--or what some call ear poisoning is a side effect of taking certain medications, including too much aspirin, and results in damage to hearing and balance. More often than not this is a temporary side effect.

Low Blood Pressure--Low blood pressure in and of itself is not a definitive cause, but some medical practitioner suggest this combined with low salt and potassium could be one cause of Meniere's.

Common symptoms of an oncoming episode of Meniere’s disease include a feeling of fullness in one or both ears, fluctuations in hearing, and tinnitus. These initial signs are usually followed by vertigo, imbalance, nausea, and vomiting. An average Meniere’s attack can last two to four hours. Severe attacks can bring on an overwhelming feeling of physical exhaustion and a staggering need to rest. Although Meniere’s can affect both ears, it typically begins in one ear. Meniere’s disease often causes a gradual and permanent decline in patient’s hearing. This hearing loss is due to damage of the delicate hair cells within the inner ear.

Vertigo--is a strong whirling sensation that affects balance and can make it difficult, if not impossible, to remain standing.

Tinnitus--An irritating buzzing, clicking, or whining phantom sound within the ears that can drive a person to distraction. This sound can become so loud that it impedes on conversations and sleep.

Hearing Loss--this symptom can be intermittent or more persistent. It usually precedes an episode. Typically hearing loss improves between episodes, but overall hearing worsens with time.

Dizziness--Not nearly as severe as vertigo. This feeling has been compared to one of lightheadedness. It typically passes more quickly and is less debilitating than vertigo.

Drop Falls--Meniere's is not a subtle condition. It comes on suddenly and can cause people to lose control where they stand and drop to the ground. This symptom is a true danger and quite frightening do those with this condition and their family members.

Headaches--Not everyone with Meniere's suffers from headaches, but those that do report that the headaches are severe in intensity.

Nausea and Abdominal Discomfort--vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems have been associated with Meniere's.

Exhaustion-- is usually a result of an attack, as the combined symptoms of Meniere's can completely exhaust an individual. People with this disease often report they need to lay down to recuperate from an attack.

Nystagmus--rapid, sudden, and uncontrollable eye movements occur with Meniere's because the same part of the inner ear essential for balance also helps control eye movement.

Meniere's disease has a sudden onset that is usually preceded by a feeling of fullness or a ringing or roaring in the ears. It is common for people with this condition to have to lie down in order to feel better. The symptoms of Meniere's get worse with movement. This condition involves fluid in the inner ear and and can be best treated by a certified hearing health professional. It is important to see a hearing health professional to help with symptoms and because the hearing of someone with this condition worsens over time. On Wednesday, People Hearing Better will post a list of the best and most recent types of treatments for this condition, but don't hesitate to reach out to others with this condition. Also if you have Meniere's or suspect that you might, don't wait, call a hearing health professional today. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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