What is Meniere's disease?
Meniere's disease is a balance disorder caused by an
abnormality found in a section of the inner ear called the labyrinth.
There are an estimated 3 to 5 million people in the US who have
Meniere's disease, with 100,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
What causes Meniere's disease?
The labyrinth has two parts:
- bony labyrinth
- membranous labyrinth
The membranous labyrinth is encased in bone and contains a fluid called endolymph.
When the head moves, the endolymph also moves, which causes nerve
receptors in the membranous labyrinth to signal the brain about the body's motion.
When, for some reason, the endolymph increases, the membranous labyrinth
balloons or dilates (a condition called endolymphatic hydrops).
If the membranous labyrinth ruptures, the endolymph mixes with another
inner ear fluid called perilymph.
The mixing of the two fluids is believed to cause the symptoms of
The vestibular system:
- regulates locomotion and
- provides conscious
awareness of orientation in space
- provides conscious
awareness of visual fixation in motion
Balance can be impaired by:
- altered gravity
- exposure to unusual
When balance is impaired,
normal movement is affected, as well as motivation, concentration,
An estimated 2 million
adults suffer from chronic dizziness or difficulty with balance.
It particularly affects people aged 65 or older.
Source: National Institute on
Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
What are the symptoms of Meniere's
The following are the most
common symptoms for Meniere's disease, however, individuals may experience
symptoms differently. Symptoms can occur suddenly, or may happen daily or
The most debilitating symptom is vertigo,
which can cause the patient to have to lie down, as well as:
- severe nausea
Other symptoms may include:
- loss of hearing
- pressure in the affected ear
- loss of balance
- abdominal discomfort
The symptoms of Meniere's disease may
resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a physician for a
Diagnosis of Meniere's disease:
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination,
the physician may request:
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to
determine if tumor is present
- electrocochleography to measure electrical
activity of the inner ear
Treatment for Meniere's disease:
Specific treatment will be determined by the physician(s) based on:
- patients age, overall health, and
- extent of the disease
- expectations for the course of the disease
- patients tolerance for specific
medications, procedures, or therapies
- patients (or familys) opinion or
Treatment may include:
Several types of surgery are effective for treating the balance
problems of Meniere's disease. The most common surgical treatment is the
insertion of a shunt (silicone tube) to drain of excess fluid.
Medications may be given to control allergies, reduce fluid
retention, or improve the blood circulation in the inner ear.
- change in diet
Eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and salt may reduce the
frequency and intensity of symptoms.
- behavior therapies
Reducing stress may lessen the severity of the disease