Abnormal fluid levels within the inner ear leads to Meniere’s disease. This can be the result of a variety of factors, including complications stemming from allergies, infection, head trauma, and genetics. The most common Meniere’s disease symptoms include vertigo, fullness or pressure in the ear, ringing in the ear, and hearing loss. Often affecting just one ear, Meniere’s disease can occur at any age and is a chronic condition.
Meniere’s disease often affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, though it can occur in children as well. Long periods of time can pass between episodes. The severity of Meniere's disease symptoms vary from person to person, and some symptoms may be more severe than others.
Symptoms associated with Meniere’s disease occur when the build-up of fluid occurs in the labyrinth. The labyrinth of the inner ear consists of the semicircular canals, saccule, utricle, and cochlea. Fluid called endolymph helps to coordinate balance through receptors which send signals to the brain. These signals help coordinate the movement and balance of the human body.
Those with Meniere’s disease often experience vertigo. Vertigo is the sensation of spinning and loss of balance. It can come on suddenly, last for anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, and can result in feelings of nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, vertigo can become so severe that the sufferer actually falls from loss of balance.
Along with vertigo, those diagnosed with Meniere’s disease will notice a feeling of congestion in the ear. Often, Meniere’s disease only affects one ear. In addition to a feeling of fullness those with Meniere’s disease symptoms experience tinnitus, a ringing in the ear.
In the beginning, hearing loss may be temporary and come and go with the other Meniere’s disease symptoms. Over time, most people diagnosed with Meniere’s disease will experience some level of permanent hearing loss. Hearing tests can determine the severity of hearing loss.
Beyond confirming the presence of traditional Meniere's disease symptoms, a doctor will also seek to rule out other possibilities. Other diseases, including multiple sclerosis and brain tumors, can cause similar symptoms. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT scans will be done to rule out these diseases. Vertigo in conjunction with speech impairment, chest pain, or double vision should be reported to a physician immediately.
No cure is available for Meniere’s disease. Treatment consists of medications to control symptoms such as dizziness and nausea. Both dietary changes, such as reducing salt intake to help reduce the amount of fluid held in the body, and not smoking can help. Surgery is reserved for severe cases.