Ménière’s Disease symptoms, causes and treatments.
What is Ménière’s disease?
Ménière’s disease is defined as a disease of the inner ear that causes disorders of the patient’s hearing and balance.
This disease is characterized by triggering episodes of vertigo, usually occurring in only one ear and appearing in middle age.
It is classified as a chronic disorder. There’s no cure for Ménière’s disease. However, science has developed treatments that minimize the symptoms and events of dizziness and loss of balance.
Ménière's Disease signs
Signs that can alert you to this disease are usually:
Critical episodes of vertigo:
The sensation of dizziness characterized by the patient perceiving that the world is spinning around them, which may cause nausea, loss of orientation and even falls.
Vertigo can last for hours and occurs without warning, compromising the patient's quality of life.
The symptom that causes the perception of an unexpected sound in the ear. It can be described as a whistling, electrical noise, buzzing, as well as any other form since it is an internal stimulus of the patient. In other words, it is a sound that only the affected person can hear.
Ear pressure or plugging of the ear:
The perception that the ear is blocked may be that the patient feels the need to unclog the ear due to uncomfortable pressure inside the ear.
Hearing loss of one or both ears:
Depending on the extent of Ménière's disease, the patient may have one or both ears affected and lose hearing as a result of the damage.
Each symptom may be intermittent. It can appear spontaneously during episodes of vertigo and disappear for a period of time.
We recommend that people who identify these symptoms see an ENT physician to help them determine a diagnosis and consequently a treatment to prevent the symptoms from getting worse over time.
Medical science cannot determine a specific reason why Ménière’s disease is generated. However, the problem is associated with the accumulation of fluid in the inner ear.
Although the reason why fluids accumulate in this area has not been identified, conditions that increase a patient’s risk for this condition have been found.
Risk factors for Ménière’s disease:
The first risk factor are genetic characteristics. The patient may have a structure of the inner ear that prevents the normal drainage of fluids.
The following conditions can also be risk factors:
- Chronic infections.
- Autoimmune conditions that develop an abnormal response to ear tissues.
- Failure of the ability to drain fluids from the ear.
The process to diagnose Ménière’s disease must be carried out by a specialized ENT physician who can apply the pertinent tests:
An interview about family history and presenting symptoms of the disease. For example, it is important for the patient to determine episodes of vertigo longer than 20 minutes, as well as the presence of the rest of the symptoms of Ménière’s disease.
On the other hand, the interview is complemented with a physical examination that includes a hearing test, observation of the ear canal to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms and, in isolated cases, the physician may recommend other types of examinations in case of suspicion of another condition.
A balance assessment is also recommended, which may vary between the current options and the preferences of each physician.
Once it is verified that the symptoms are not generated by other causes, the diagnosis is determined and the patient is offered a treatment to control the symptoms.
Complications of untreated Ménière’s disease.
It is necessary to be aware of the risk of vertigo episodes caused by Ménière’s disease, which are unexpected events that cause the patient to lose the ability to orient themselves, balance and perception of space in a natural way.
When these events are not controlled, the patient’s quality of life is affected, producing stress and anxiety during daily life, as well as an increased risk of accidents and falls as a consequence of prolonged vertigo.
We invite patients to consult with an ENT physician to avoid episodes of vertigo and remain stable in their daily lives.
Treatment for Meniere's disease.
Before describing the treatment options available for Ménière’s disease, it is necessary to clarify that there is no specific cure for the disorder, but rather treatments are focused on alleviating the patient’s symptoms on an ongoing basis.
Specific medications are recommended to stop the sensation of dizziness and may even recommend drugs to prevent nausea.
There are different options within this category that can be recommended according to the condition of each patient, among the options we find:
Use of hearing aids to improve or restore hearing, vestibular rehabilitation to regain physical balance and/or middle ear pressure therapy to relieve fluid pressure inside the ear.
Within this category we find the options of injections inside the ear and surgeries.
As for middle ear injections, we find antibiotic drugs that inhibit the balance function of the labyrinth and, as a consequence, reduce episodes of vertigo.
For surgeries, there are several options, such as:
- Labyrinthectomy: The removal of the part of the inner ear responsible for balance. It is a process recommended for patients who have lost all hearing in the ear.
- Cutting the vestibular nerve: The vestibular nerve acts as a motion sensor and sends signals to the brain through the inner ear, cutting the connection improves vertigo episodes.
- Endolymphatic sac surgery: This area is responsible for managing fluid levels by decompressing the endolymphatic sac excess fluid within the inner ear is drained. In most cases, a drainage tube is placed which allows the fluid in the inner ear to not accumulate.