Meniere’s disease is a condition that affects the inner ear. It can cause abrupt episodes of intense dizziness that can last for minutes to hours.
The dizziness is described as a sensation of spinning. In most cases, there is a certain degree of hearing loss. Only one ear is affected but it can affect both in some cases. The symptoms can range from minor to severe. Even though the dizziness can be debilitating, it can be controlled. There are cases where there is serious hearing loss, but complete deafness is rare.
How does it develop?
The inner ear is comprised of tubes filled with fluid that help with hearing and maintain balance. The episodes of dizziness are brought about by an increase in the fluid pressure in the inner ear. The root cause of the increase in the pressure is unknown.
What are the signs?
The usual signs of Meniere’s disease include:
- Severe spinning sensation that arises abruptly
- Buzzing or ringing sounds or increased noise in the ear once dizziness starts
- Sensation of fullness or pressure in the ear
- Loss of hearing in the ear that worsens during the episodes of dizziness
The symptoms might come and go. There are instances in which there are no symptoms for weeks, months or even years.
Management of Meniere’s disease
Generally, the initial step is to stop the episodes of the dizziness by preventing the buildup of fluid pressure in the inner ear. Some of these measures include:
- Diet low in salt
- Limit or stop the intake of caffeine and alcohol
- Use a diuretic to help get rid of excess water and salt
The treatment to reduce the fluid pressure is highly effective for most individuals with Meniere’s disease.
Oftentimes, allergies can cause or aggravate the signs of Meniere’s disease. The doctor might suggest allergy testing and treatment with allergy medications or shots.
In case these treatments are not effective in managing the episodes of dizziness, other treatment options are used such as medications that are injected into the ear to stop the dizziness or even surgery.
A medication to stop the dizziness might also be given such as meclizine or valium to ease the symptoms. It also helps with nausea and vomiting that often arises with dizziness.
How long does it last?
An episode usually lasts for several hours. The episodes might arise every few days or every few years. Oftentimes, it is a mild condition and can be managed with drugs. Sometimes, the symptoms last for life.