What is Ménière’s Disease?

Got vertigo, pressure in your ears, hearing loss that comes and goes, and an annoying ringing in your ears? Those are the classic signs of Ménière’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects a large number of patients in Utah and across the United States.

Understanding Ménière’s Disease

Ménière’s disease was first identified in 1861 by a French doctor named Prosper Ménière. Many in the medical industry wish his first name had been used instead of his last, because it’s a real pain to find those weird accent symbols over the letter e. Tricky keyboard shortcuts notwithstanding, Ménière’s affects roughly 12 out of every 1,000 people a year.

Patients with Ménière’s disease experience episodes of varying duration; some last just a few minutes, while others persist for 24 hours. These attacks are unpredictable; they may occur 2-3 times a week, or only strike once every few years.

Most episodes are preceded by warning signs such as dizziness, loss of balance, headache, and sensitivity to noise. Actual symptoms include vertigo, possibly severe; tinnitus; fluctuating hearing loss; fullness or pressure in the ears; anxiety; blurry vision; nausea; vomiting; rapid pulse; trembling; and diarrhea. Afterwards, many patients suffer from exhaustion. Long periods of sleep may be needed to recover.

Ménière’s disease is a bit of a mystery. Excess fluid in the inner ear is usually responsible for triggering the symptoms, but doctors are unclear about what causes this buildup of fluid in the first place. It may be the result of a dysfunction of the endolymphatic sac, the organ responsible for regulating volume and pressure of fluids in the inner ear, but the mechanism that causes this failure in the first place is unknown. There are plenty of theories, including circulation disorders, viral infections, trauma, allergies, migraines, or obstructions in the ear canal. It is most likely to affect people in Utah aged 40 to 60.

Treatment for Ménière’s Disease

Unfortunately, Ménière’s disease has no cure. But that doesn’t mean individuals in St. George, Cedar City, or Mesquite suffering from this disorder can’t find help. Your Utah audiologist can provide treatment targeting your symptoms and reducing their frequency and severity. Common remedies include motion sickness and anti-nausea medications, diuretics, antibiotics, and oral or injectable steroids.

Lifestyle changes often help, as well. Your doctor may encourage you to reduce your sodium intake and limit your consumption of caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and MSG; drink plenty of fluids; give up smoking; avoid allergens; and try stress-reducing exercises and other techniques for reducing anxiety. Vestibular rehabilitation exercises might also help. In severe cases, surgery may be an option.

If you are experiencing Ménière’s disease and looking for answers, a visit to your audiologist in Utah can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.