Meniere's disease is an inner ear disorder that affects balance and hearing.
See also: Vertigo
The inner ear contains fluid-filled tubes called semicircular canals, or labyrinths. These canals, along with a nerve in your skull, help interpret your body's position and maintain your balance.
The exact cause of Meniere's disease is unknown. It may occur when the pressure of the fluid in part of the inner ear gets too high.
In some cases, Meniere's disease may be related to:
Other risk factors include:
Between 50,000 and 100,000 people a year develop Meniere's disease.
Attacks or episodes of Meniere's disease often start without warning. They may occur daily, or as rarely as once a year. The severity of each episode can vary.
Meniere's disease usually has four main symptoms:
Severevertigo or dizziness is the symptom that causes the most problems. People who have vertigo feel as though they are spinning or moving, or that the world is spinning around them.
Hearing loss may occur. Usually the hearing loss is only in one ear, but it may affect both ears.
Other symptoms include:
A brain and nervous system (neurological) examination may show problems with hearing, balance, or eye movement.
A hearing test or audiogram will show the hearing loss that occurs with Meniere's. Hearing may be near normal after an attack.
A procedure called caloric stimulation tests eye reflexes by warming and cooling the inner ear with water. Abnormal results on this test can be a sign of Meniere's disease.
The following tests may also be done to distinguish Meniere's disease from other causes of vertigo:
There is no known cure for Meniere's disease. However, lifestyle changes and some treatments can often help relieve symptoms.
Your doctor may suggest ways to decrease the amount of water or fluid in your body. This can often help control symptoms.
Other changes that may help with the symptoms and keep you safe include:
Symptoms of Meniere's disease can cause stress. Make healthy lifestyle choices to help you cope:
Your health care provider may prescribe medicines for nausea and vomiting. Symptoms such as dizziness and vertigo may respond to sedative/hypnotics and benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium).
You may need ear surgery if your symptoms are severe and do not respond to other treatments.
Hearing aids may be needed for severe hearing loss.
The outcome varies. Meniere's disease can often be controlled with treatment.
The condition may get better on its own. However, Meniere's may be chronic or disabling.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of Meniere's disease, such as hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or dizziness, occur or worsen.
There is no known prevention for Meniere's disease, but prompt treatment of ear infection and other related disorders may be helpful.
Hydrops; Endolymphatic hydrops
Crane BT, Schessel DA, Nedzelski J, Minor LB. Peripheral vestibular disorders. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 165.
Post RE, Dickerson LM. Dizziness: a diagnostic approach. Am Fam Physician. 2010;82:361-369.
Updated by: Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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