Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo along with intermittent hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus) and sometimes a feeling of pressure in the ear. In most cases of Meniere’s disease only one ear is affected.
Meniere’s disease can develop in anyone but people in their 40s and 50s have an increased risk of the disease.
Meniere’s disease is considered a chronic condition but there are treatments that can help manage and relieve symptoms and reduce the disease’s long-term impact.
Symptoms of Meniere’s disease include:
- Recurring episodes of vertigo: Episodes of vertigo can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours or more and severe vertigos can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Hearing loss: In the early stages of the disease the hearing loss may fluctuate but as the disease progresses it can cause some level of permanent hearing loss.
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus): Ringing, buzzing, roaring or whistling sound.
- Feeling of pressure in the ear
The severity, frequency and duration of the symptoms may vary, especially in the early stage of the disease. The symptoms can occur at the same time.
The exact cause of Meniere’s disease is not completely clear; however, it is usually the result of abnormal volume or composition of fluid in the inner ear.
The structure of the inner ear forms a labyrinth. The inside of the inner ear is a soft membranous structure (membranous labyrinth) that contains a fluid (endolymph) and it is lined with hair-like sensors that respond to movement of the fluid. All the sensors function properly as long as the fluid retains a certain volume, pressure and chemical composition. Factors that interfere with the properties of the inner ear fluid can cause Meniere’s disease.
Some of the factors that can alter the function of the inner ear include:
- Improper fluid drainage due to a blockage or anatomic abnormality
- Abnormal immune response
- Viral infection
- Genetic predisposition
- Head trauma
Most of the complications of Meniere’s disease arise from the vertigo episodes that may interfere with normal activities.
Vertigo can cause:
- Car accidents or accidents when operating heavy machinery
- Depression or anxiety
- Permanent hearing loss