What is Meniere’s Disease?.
Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition affecting the inner ear, characterised by recurring episodes of vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear.
The exact cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown. It is thought to be related to a build-up of fluid in the inner ear.
Potential factors include genetics, viral infections, allergies, and autoimmune disorders.
Symptoms may include severe vertigo lasting several hours, fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and a sensation of pressure or fullness in the affected ear.
The diagnosis of Meniere’s disease typically involves a thorough evaluation of a patient’s symptoms, medical history, and a series of tests. The process may include the following:
1. Medical history and physical examination: The doctor will inquire about the patient’s symptoms, their frequency and duration, and any associated factors. They will also conduct a physical examination, which may involve assessing balance, eye movements, and the function of the ear.
2. Hearing assessment: Meniere’s disease often presents with a unique type of hearing loss. This may include pure-tone audiometry, speech audiometry, and tympanometry to assess the functioning of the middle ear.
3. Vestibular function tests: These tests assess the balance and vestibular function of the inner ear. Common tests include electronystagmography (ENG) or videonystagmography (VNG) to measure eye movements, caloric testing to evaluate responses to warm and cool air or water irrigated into the ear canal, and rotary chair testing.
4. Imaging studies: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans may be conducted to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms, such as tumors or structural abnormalities in the inner ear or brain.
5. Electrocochleography (ECoG): This test measures electrical potentials generated in the inner ear in response to sound stimulation. It can help in detecting abnormal fluid pressures within the ear.
6. Blood tests: While there is no specific blood test for Meniere’s disease, blood tests may be performed to rule out other potential causes or contributing factors, such as autoimmune disorders or infections.
Diagnosing Meniere’s disease can be challenging because there is no definitive test to confirm its presence. The diagnosis is typically based on the characteristic pattern of symptoms, exclusion of other potential causes, and the presence of specific criteria.
It’s important to consult with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management plan tailored to the individual’s needs.
While there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing their recurrence.
Medications such as diuretics, anti-vertigo medications, and anti-nausea drugs may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms during acute episodes.
Lifestyle modifications, such as reducing sodium intake, avoiding triggers like caffeine and alcohol, and stress management, can help minimize symptoms.
In some cases, surgical interventions or procedures like endolymphatic sac decompression or vestibular nerve section may be considered if symptoms are severe and do not respond to other treatments.
Individuals with Meniere’s disease are advised to work closely with their GP, otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and audiologist to develop a personalised treatment plan tailored to their specific needs.
With appropriate management, most individuals with Meniere’s disease can lead fulfilling lives and effectively control their symptoms.