The Complete Guide to Meniere’s Disease
Currently, a lot of research is being done to find a cure for Meniere’s Disease. This disease affects a lot of people in the U.S. At the moment, 50,000 people are diagnosed with this condition on an annual basis, while 615,000 people live with this illness. This is as reported by The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. However, it’s still not yet clear why so many new people are contracting this disease every year.
The cause of this disease has not yet been identified. This disease is usually diagnosed when someone is between 30 to 60 years of age. Every person that is diagnosed with this condition responds to it differently. However, you will face so many challenges when you have this disease, to the extent that you can get incapacitated when the disease is at an advanced stage. Therefore, when you are looking for treatment options, the key thing is to manage the symptoms and to find medications that will improve your quality of life.
What is Meniere’s Disease?
Meniere’s disease is a long-lasting disease that affects the inner ear. Unfortunately, there is no cure for it yet. This disease can attack you once and then remain for many years or you can get multiple single attacks. The attacks can be separated by days, weeks or even years. This disease is a disorder in the inner ear that results in one experiencing several symptoms. This includes feeling lightheaded, faint and tinnitus. You will also experience other symptoms that come about as a result of fluid accumulating in your inner ears.
One of the severest complications that you can get from having Meniere’s disease is completely losing your hearing. This disease can have a great effect on your life due to the nature of the symptoms experienced. For instance, as a result of feeling faint all the time and lightheaded, it can be hard for you to operate machinery at work or even drive a car. You can also keep falling down or stumbling all over the place.
Meniere’s Disease Symptoms
The symptoms of this disease vary from one individual to another. Some people might experience all the signs that have been discussed here, while there are those people who will only experience a couple of those symptoms. Moreover, you might experience the symptoms all the time for many years or you might experience them on and off. That explains why this disease does not affect everyone in the same way.
The key symptoms of this illness are:
Dizziness. When you are lightheaded, you will either feel like you are spinning around or that the world around you is spinning around at a fast pace. You might feel light-headed for only a couple of minutes or you might feel like this for many hours. This will make it difficult for you to do anything meaningful. You will also find it hard to maintain your sense of balance, such that you might fall over. You have to be extremely careful to take care of yourself to avoid getting an accident. Even when you stop feeling lightheaded, you might still not have your sense of balance restored for several hours or even days.
Feeling Faint. You might feel faint anytime you are using the stairs or the lift or just walking. This feeling tends to get worse if you experience abrupt starts and stops, for instance like when a vehicle is starting and stopping suddenly. When you start feeling faint, be careful, so that you do not lose your sense of balance and fall.
Loss of Hearing. After the initial diagnosis of this condition, you might find that it is hard for you to hear sounds that are not very loud. This might affect just one of your ears or both of your ears. Your loss of hearing will get worse even as the disease gets worse and you might eventually stop hearing anything at all. However, there are some people who experience remissions. During a remission, some of your hearing might get restored.
Gastrointestinal Issues. When feeling lightheaded or faint, chances are that you might also start feeling nauseated or start throwing up. To minimize the nausea symptoms, consider sucking on ginger lozenges or even taking green tea. You might also experience diarrhea and stomach ache or discomfort.
Ear Pressure. You might feel pressure either in one of your ears or both of your ears.
Tinnitus. When you have tinnitus, it means that you will be continuously hearing buzzing, whistling or ringing sounds in one or both of your ears. Even though this is not dangerous, it can be quite disturbing and annoying. Tinnitus tends to get worse even as the disease also gets worse. Some medical drugs that you take can make tinnitus much worse. Things include drugs like aspirin, some antibiotics, antidepressants, and even cancer medication. Therefore, if it is getting worse, let your doctor know so that they can prescribe alternative drugs that will not negatively affect you.
Uncontrollable Eye Movements. You might be unable to control the movements of your eyes. This might cause your eyes to move up or down or in circles or from one side to another. This is referred to as dancing eyes or Nystagmus. This comes about as a result of the labyrinth in the inner ear not working properly the labyrinth is the organ that causes sensitivity to movement and position.
Diagnosing Meniere’s Disease
When you suspect that you have Meniere’s disease, it is important that you consult a medical doctor. The doctor will then ask you about your symptoms and then carry out a number of tests to check whether your hearing and sense of balance are working correctly. This is done so as to rule out other conditions.
Test of Balance
There are a number of tests that can be done on your inner ear to check whether your sense of balance is okay. If you have Meniere’s disease, your sense of balance in at least one of your years will be minimized.
One of the tests used to check for a sense of balance is the electronystagmography (ENG) test. During this test, electrodes will be put around your eyes, so as to check for eye movements. Your sense of balance in your inner year causes eye movements.
Both cold and hot water will be poured into your ear and then your eye movements will be monitored. If your eyes do not move as expected, then this indicates that there is something wrong with your inner ear.
Another test that is used to check for balance is the Rotary Chair Test. However, it is rarely used. This test helps your doctor clarify whether the problem is as a result of an issue with your ear or with your brain. The ENG test might not always be correct if the wax is obstructing one of the ear canals or if there is ear damage. Therefore, the rotary chair test is done in addition to the ENG test to confirm the findings. During the rotary chair test, the movements of your eyes will be carefully observed as the chair rotates.
The posturography test is used to examine exactly which part of your balance system is not working correctly. Therefore, you will be required to respond to a number of balance challenges. You will, of course, be strapped up in a safety harness and also be barefoot. The Vestibular evoked myogenic (VEMP) test measures how sensitive the vestibule of your inner ear is.
Audiometry is a test done to measure how well you can hear. During this test, you will have to wear headphones and then various sounds will be played at different volumes. you will indicate to the technician whether you can hear the various sounds or not.
In addition, your doctor will test whether you can distinguish between various sounds. Various words that sound similar will be said to you through your headphone and you will have to say out loud what words you are hearing. This will help your doctor distinguish whether the hearing problem is just in one of your ears or both of your ears.
The electrocochleography test will be administered to assess the electrical activity in your inner ear. This is important since an issue with your inner ear or nerves in your inner ear can result in hearing loss. To check your hearing nerves and whether the hearing part of your brain is working correctly, an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test will be done. This helps the doctor distinguish whether your hearing loss is caused by your nerve cells or ear nerve.
It’s essential that your doctor does other tests in a bid to rule out other conditions. This is because other diseases that affect the brain, like brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, might have symptoms that are similar to what is caused by Meniere’s disease. Therefore, you will have to undergo a cranial CT scan and a head MRI to check if your brain is okay.
According to researchers, various environmental elements can trigger Meniere’s disease, for instance, lack of proper nutrition and anxiety. That is why it is essential that you observe what your triggers are so that you can avoid them.
Here are some remedies that will help to keep your symptoms under control.
Stay Away from Alcohol and Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant; therefore it can make tinnitus worse. In addition, alcohol and caffeine can prevent absorption of fluid by the body and make Meniere’s disease worse.
Stop Smoking: The nicotine that is found in tobacco products can make your symptoms worse as it interferes with the flow of blood in the inner ear. Therefore, avoid nicotine at all costs if you want your overall health to improve.
Minimize Salt and Sugar Intake: Too much salt and sugar in your body cause water retention in your body. This will make Meniere’s disease worse. Therefore, stay away from any foods that have lots of salt and sugar. This includes sweets, carbonated drinks, and juices. Lots of processed foods nowadays have high salt content, for instance, baked products, gravies, chips, breakfast cereals and foods that have been marinated.
Work Out Regularly: Exercise on a regular basis so as to enhance your sense of balance and prevent lightheadedness. For instance, you can do the vestibular eye exercise, as it helps to minimize dizziness and enhance eye and head movement. You should also do the vestibular head and shoulder workouts, as they will minimize chances of vertigo.
Treating Meniere’s Disease
There is currently no cure for this disease. However, you can take various medications to help you keep your symptoms under control. In bad cases, you might even have to undergo a surgical operation.
Medications. There are various drugs that your doctor can prescribe to help deal with this condition. For instance, motion sickness medicine can be used to remedy feeling faint and lightheaded and cases of nausea and throwing up. But if nausea and throwing up is too much, then the doctor will give you an anti-nausea medicine or antiemetic.
Since it is thought that issues with the fluid in the ear is what causes Meniere’s disease, your doctor might opt to inject medicines directly into your inside ear through your inner ear, so as to minimize signs of lightheadedness. In addition, the doctor might also recommend that the amount of fluid in your body be reduced through the use of a diuretic.
Physical Therapy. A physical therapist can show you how to do Vestibular rehabilitation workouts on your own. This will minimize lightheadedness as your brain will be trained on how to manage the difference in balance between your ears.
Hearing Equipment. You can start using hearing aids with the recommendation of an audiologist.
Surgery. Generally, people who have Meniere’s disease do not require a surgical operation, but this might be an intervention strategy for severe cases that are not responding to other treatment methods. The doctor will carry out an endolymphatic sac operation, so as to minimize the quantity of fluid produced and to enhance drainage of fluid in the inner ear.
When Should You Have Surgery?
Only a small number of people who have Meniere’s disease will ever need a surgical intervention. In case it is not possible to control the lightheadedness through other measures, yet it is quite severe, you might need any of the following surgical procedures:
Selective Vestibular Neurectomy: This is where the balance nerve is chopped off from where it is connected from the inner ear to the brain. This will permanently do away with the problem of getting lightheaded. However, it will not solve the imbalance issue. This procedure will not interfere with your hearing.
Endolymphatic Sac Shunt or Decompression: Half to two-thirds of the people who undergo this procedure will no longer experience lightheadedness. They will also get relief from pressure in the ear. However, the sense of balance achieved will only last for a short time. This procedure does not improve hearing but might in some cases even make it worse. You only need a short amount of time to fully recover from this operation.
Labyrinthectomy and Eighth Nerve Section: This procedure greatly helps to minimize vertigo attacks. During this operation, the mechanisms for hearing and balance are completely destroyed in one of the ears that have been severely affected.
Diet’s Effect on Meniere’s Disease
You can make some alterations in your diet so as to minimize the quantity of fluid in your inner ear. This will minimize the symptoms experienced. Some of the things that you can remove from your diet or minimize include:
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Also, takes lots of water, so as to minimize fluid retention by the body. This should be at least six glasses of water daily.
There are various lifestyle alterations that you can make, so as to make your symptoms better. These include:
- Taking time to relax whenever you are feeling lightheaded
- Eat on a regular basis, so as to control the amount of fluid in your body
- Using medicine and physiotherapy to help you bring stress and anxiety under control
Since nicotine and allergens can cause Meniere’s disease to deteriorate further, it is best that you stay away from cigarettes and anything you are allergic to.
Outlook on Meniere’s Disease
This disease has no cure but there are various measures you can take, so as to minimize the symptoms experienced. There are some instances when spontaneous remission might happen, but this is quite common and it might last for many years. Work with your doctor to come up with the best remedy for your condition.
There are so many conditions that can cause some of the symptoms exhibited by Meniere’s disease. For instance, an infection in the middle and inner ear, a new head injury or other condition. That is why it is essential that you consult your doctor first, so as to get the correct diagnosis.
This disease might result in your hearing getting permanently impaired, exhaustion, hopelessness, stress, and anxiety. If you are continuously feeling lightheaded, this can incapacitate you, since you might get into an accident when handling heavy machinery or driving. You might get what is known as a ‘drop attack’ when you have severe dizziness to the extent that you will just fall down. When you are having an attack, the best thing is that you halt whatever you are doing and either lie down or sit down.
When you are having an attack:
- Sit down or lie down whenever you are feeling lightheaded or faint
- Avoid driving a car, using an elevator or using the stairs whenever you are faint or lightheaded.
- Avoid operating heavy machinery such as a chainsaw or any other dangerous object when you are having an attack.
Home Remedies for Meniere’s Disease
The key to managing this disease is managing the symptoms, given that the illness is incurable.
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, here are the key dietary changes to make if you have Meniere’s disease, so as to help you balance your body fluids:
Minimize Salt Intake. Consuming too much salt causes your body to retain fluids. This will make the symptoms experienced much worse. This is because sodium affects the regulation of fluids in the body. Therefore, it is essential that you stay away from foods that have too much salt. In addition, limit your intake of salt to between 1, 000mg to 2, 000mg in a day. This is about half a teaspoon to a full teaspoon in a day. This should not be consumed all at once but staggered out throughout the day.
Reduce Caffeine . If you have tinnitus, then taking even a little caffeine can make the condition worse, which will stress you out. Therefore, observe how your body reacts when you take caffeine. This includes things such as black tea, coffee, and green tea. If you notice that you are getting worse after consuming caffeine, then eliminate it from your diet.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption. Totally do away with alcohol or just limit it to a few special events. This is because alcohol affects the composition and level of fluid in your inner ear.
Quit Smoking. Generally, tobacco produces adverse health effects. When you have Meniere’s disease, it can make your condition worse, considering that alcohol constricts blood vessels, thereby reducing the amount of blood that flows through your inner ear.
Regulate Intake of Food and Liquids. Balance your intake of food and liquids throughout the day. This means that you should space out your meals evenly throughout your day. In addition, the amount of food and liquids that you take in each meal should be the same. This will help to balance out the amount of fluid in your inner ear.
Stay Away from Foods and Drinks That Are High in Sugar. This is because too much sugar in the body causes the amount of liquid in your body to greatly fluctuate. This will make your symptoms much worse. This is even when you substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners. In fact, they can make your condition worse when it comes to balancing fluid levels in the body. Sugar is harmful to your overall health. Therefore, stay away from sugary snacks, desserts, juices, and soda.
Stay Away from Foods That You Are Allergic To. According to a study that appeared in the Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery Journal, individuals who underwent the desensitization protocol and diet greatly improved in their allergic reactions and symptoms of Meniere’s disease that were experienced. Moreover, the frequency and severity of the condition greatly improved after treatment. The researchers observed that allergic reactions mainly target the ear.
That is why you should try and eliminate things from your diet, so as to figure out what you are sensitive to. Some popular allergens include soy, dairy, alcohol, gluten, sugar, and manufactured foods.
Stress Management. Reduce stress, so as to keep the symptoms of this disease under control. Being stressed out causes hormonal imbalance in the body.
Music and Sound Therapy. According to an article that was published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology, there are some noises that reduce the impact of tinnitus. This includes the waterfall sound, rain, streams, and wind. These sounds should just be in the background. Moreover, music therapy enhances the flow of blood in the inner year and encourages relaxation. Consequently, find the most suitable sounds of nature that works well for you.
Breathing. Carry out breathing exercises when you have anxiety or just before you get into bed. This will reduce your anxiety levels as well as improve the quality of sleep that you get.
Join Support Groups. Finding a support group can make a great difference due to the shared experiences with other affected people. This can help you learn some helpful coping tips, given how incapacitating this illness can be. Check with the Vestibular Disorders Association, if there is any support group near you.
You might also find one to one counseling helpful; as it can help you accept the reality of your condition. You can also get tips on how to cope with vertigo and tinnitus.
Foam Roller Exercises. Do foam roller exercises to help enhance blood circulation and blood flow. Since these exercises encourage the release of myofascial, this is quite beneficial in helping to minimize the symptoms experienced.
Reflexology . According to an article that appeared in the Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics journal, deep tissue massage that concentrated on the neck area greatly helped to improve tinnitus. Other types of massages that are great at minimizing fluid accumulation include lymphatic drainage massage and craniosacral therapy. Therefore, try out different massages in order to figure out what works best for you.
Acupuncture. According to an article that was published in the Alternative and Complementary Medicine Journal, acupuncture is a great way of minimizing lightheadedness.
In another study, it was found out that acupuncture helped to keep lightheadedness under control, for people who have Meniere Disease.
Get Relief from Allergies. Allergies are risky when you have Meniere Disease, due to the fact that they affect the amount of fluid in the ears. Therefore, it might be helpful to use raw honey to deal with any seasonal allergies that you might have. Honey does a better job in preventing seasonal medicines, even better than allergy medication.
Dandelion Tea. Dandelion tea causes the user to urinate a lot. Therefore, you can use it as a diuretic. But stay away from it in case you are allergic to marigolds, daisies, ragweed or even chrysanthemums, as it can cause an allergic reaction.
Managing Meniere’s Disease
It can be quite hard to live with Meniere’s Disease. This is due to the big effect that it has on one’s life. This is in addition to the unpredictable attacks that someone can get anywhere and at any time. In addition, a lot of people do not know anything about this disease. Therefore, when they get the disease, they have to do their research, so as to find out more about the condition. They must also educate their friends and family about this condition. One of the ways family and friends can support you is by helping you to stick to a healthy diet that will minimize symptoms experienced, such a low salt diet. In addition, let your friends and family know the signs that show that you are having an attack and how they can help you at such times.
You need to be well prepared so that you can handle severe attacks properly. Come up with a care plan together with your doctor. For instance, have drugs that you can use when you get a sudden attack. Also, establish at what point it would be appropriate for you to go to the hospital for medical care. When you are having an attack, the best thing to do is to lie down in a firm place and avoid jerking your head around. Also, staring at a stationary object that is about 18 inches away from you might help. In case you get dehydrated as a result of continuous vomiting, see a doctor.
Rest for some time after the attack. You also need to get up and walk around, so that your brain can readjust its balance.
Let Other People Help You
Get social support from your friends and relatives. Talk to them about your condition and how you feel about it. This will help to reduce your stress levels, as well as inform your close friends about how they can help you.
You also need to check if there are any local online support groups that you can join. You will learn a lot about Meniere’s Disease from these groups. Getting psychological therapy from an expert can also be quite helpful.
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