This chronic disorder affects balance and hearing, causing unpredictable episodes of dizziness and hearing problems.
Meniere's disease is an inner ear problem that can cause dizzy spells, also called vertigo, and hearing loss. Most of the time, Meniere's disease affects only one ear.
Meniere's disease can happen at any age. But it usually starts between the ages of 40 to 60. It's thought to be a lifelong condition. But some treatments can help ease symptoms and lessen how it affects your life long term.
Symptoms of Meniere's disease include:
After a vertigo attack, symptoms get better and might go away for a while. Over time, how many vertigo attacks you have may lessen.
See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of Meniere's disease. Other illnesses can cause these problems. So, it's important to find out what's causing your symptoms as soon as possible.
The cause of Meniere's disease isn't known. Symptoms of Meniere's disease may be due to extra fluid in the inner ear called endolymph. But it isn't clear what causes this fluid to build up in the inner ear.
Issues that affect the fluid, which might lead to Meniere's disease, include:
Because no single cause has been found, Meniere's disease likely has a combination of causes.
Semicircular canals and otolith organs — called the utricle and saccule — in your inner ear contain fluid and fine, hairlike sensors. These sensory hair cells help you keep your eyes focused on a target when your head is in motion. They also help you keep your balance.
Meniere's disease is most common in people ages 40 to 60. Females may have a slightly higher risk than men.
You may have a higher chance of getting Meniere's disease if someone in your family has had the condition.
You may have a higher risk of Meniere's disease if you have an autoimmune disorder.
The most difficult complications of Meniere's disease can be:
The disease can happen at any time. This can cause worry and stress.
Vertigo can cause you to lose balance. This can increase your risk of falls and accidents.
Your healthcare provider does an exam and asks about your health history. A Meniere's disease diagnosis needs to include:
Meniere's disease can have similar symptoms that are similar to other illnesses. Because of this, your healthcare provider will need to rule out any other conditions you may have.
A hearing test is called audiometry. Audiometry looks at how well you hear sounds at different pitches and volumes. It also can test how well you can tell between words that sound the same. People with Meniere's disease often have trouble hearing low frequencies or combined high and low frequencies. They may have typical hearing in the midrange frequencies.
Between vertigo attacks, balance returns to normal for most people with Meniere's disease. But you might have some ongoing balance problems.
Tests that study how well the inner ear is working include:
Lab tests, imaging scans and other tests may be used to rule out conditions. Some other conditions can cause problems like those of Meniere's disease, such as a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis.
No cure exists for Meniere's disease. Some treatments can help lessen how bad vertigo attacks are and how long they last. But there are no treatments for permanent hearing loss. Your healthcare provider may be able to suggest treatments that prevent your hearing loss from getting worse.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to take during a vertigo attack so that it's less severe:
Your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine to reduce fluid retention and suggest limiting your salt intake. This helps control the intensity and amount of Meniere's disease symptoms in some people.
Some people with Meniere's disease may benefit from procedures that don't include surgery, such as:
If conservative treatments aren't successful, your care provider might suggest more-intense treatments.
Medicines injected and absorbed in the middle ear may help vertigo symptoms get better. This treatment is done in a care provider's office. Injections can include:
If vertigo attacks from Meniere's disease are severe and hard to bear and other treatments don't help, surgery might be an option. Procedures include:
You may be able to improve some symptoms of Meniere's disease with self-care tips. Think about trying these tips during a vertigo attack:
To avoid causing a vertigo attack, try the following.
Meniere's disease can affect your social life, your productivity and the overall quality of your life. Learn all you can about your health problem.
Talk to people who have Meniere's disease, such as in a support group. Group members can give information, resources, support and coping tips. Ask your healthcare provider or therapist about groups in your area or look for information from the Vestibular Disorders Association.
You're likely to first see your family healthcare provider. Your primary care provider might refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, a hearing specialist (audiologist), or a nervous system specialist (neurologist).
Here are some tips to help you get ready for your appointment.
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do beforehand, such as fasting before a test. Make a list of:
For Meniere's disease, some basic questions to ask your healthcare provider include:
Don't wait to ask other questions.
Your provider is likely to ask you several questions, such as: