Meniere’s Disease affects about 40 000 Australians. Categorised as a condition impacting the inner ear, Meniere’s Disease comes with a lot of unpredictability. Episodes of vertigo, fatigue, tinnitus, and more can interrupt your daily activities, leading to various frustrations. Additionally, permanent hearing loss is an all-too-real threat for those diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease.
While there is no cure for this condition, treatment can help you manage your symptoms. Below, we discuss the signs and symptoms of Meniere’s Disease, the causes, how it is diagnosed, and the treatment options available.
Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease
The inner ear is responsible for hearing and balance. Fluid within the inner ear lets your brain know where your head and body are in space. Other fluid, located in the cochlea of the inner ear, also contributes to your ability to hear sounds.
With a build-up of this fluid associated with Meniere’s Disease, you might experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear)
- Progressive loss of hearing
- Feelings of fullness (or pressure) in the ear
- Noise sensitivities
These signs and symptoms may also come and go. Typically, an individual experiences one or two of these symptoms more than others.
Causes of Meniere’s Disease
Overall, the cause of Meniere’s Disease isn’t known. However, the symptoms are a direct cause of fluid build-up in the inner ear. When this fluid builds up, it disrupts the messaging between the hearing and balance nerves and the brain.
Experts theorise that this fluid build-up may happen due to:
- Blockage or anatomical abnormalities leading to inadequate fluid drainage
- Compression of blood vessels
- Autoimmune disorders
In some cases, Meniere’s Disease might also arise due to a combination of the above factors.
Diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease
The onset of Meniere’s Disease can happen any time between 20 and 60 years of age. Initially, diagnosing this condition often involves ruling out other conditions and diseases with similar symptoms. Usually, this process involves various testing including:
This test measures whether or not hearing loss is due to dysfunction of the inner ear. Hearing loss is one of the main categories for diagnosing Meniere’s Disease.
Overall, this puts your balance system to the test. It does this by measuring involuntary eye movement while your balance is manipulated. Other balance testing may include videonystagmography (VNG), rotary-chair testing, vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP) testing, posturography, or video head impulse test (vHIT).
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI helps your doctor rule out other conditions and diseases, which is essential in diagnosing Meniere’s Disease. In particular, an MRI helps determine if any central nervous system disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), acoustic neuroma, or Arnold-Chiari malformation, are present.
Treatment of Meniere’s Disease
As previously mentioned, there is no cure for Meniere’s Disease. This means that treatment focuses on managing and reducing your symptoms, as well as preserving hearing and balance where possible. Treatment frequently includes a combination of the following.
Medication can help you control your symptoms, including vertigo, vomiting, and nausea. Prescribed medication can also help manage associated anxiety and help with fluid retention.
2. Lifestyle Modifications
There is some evidence showing that a low-sodium diet and avoiding CATS (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and stress) can help decrease symptom severity. In fact, many of these modifications can improve your overall health and wellness.
Vestibular rehabilitation with a qualified physiotherapist can further help reduce symptoms and symptom severity. In particular, a physiotherapist can help manage dizziness and imbalances in between episodes of vertigo.
More specifically, a physiotherapist can help you:
- Improve and maintain balance
- Find ways to avoid and minimize injury
- Identify triggers and help you find ways to avoid them
- Reduce second-hand symptoms of this condition, such as neck stiffness caused by compensatory balance efforts
- Improve your quality of life
Meniere’s Disease can leave you feeling helpless and isolated, leaving you susceptible to mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. This is why it’s important to seek out treatment early on. Physiotherapy can help you navigate through this time and pinpoint strategies that work for you and your life, allowing you to manage your symptoms in the best way possible. For more information or to get started with vestibular rehabilitation today, call us at 03 9034 7735 or book your appointment online.