Meniere's disease is a condition that affects the inner ear, the deepest part of the ear that has a role in hearing but also balance. The origin of the disease can be caused by too much pressure in the fluid in the labyrinth of the inner ear. Other causes could be nerve damage, or a disorder of the central nervous system. Symptoms affect both balance and hearing and go through periods void of any clinical signs.
Meniere's disease is manifested as follows:
- sudden onset of vertigo, lasting a few minutes or a few hours before a spontaneous disappearance;
- tinnitus, a sensation of ringing or buzzing heard, but without the existence of external sounds;
- a decrease in hearing or deafness;
- nausea and vomiting;
- occasionally, discomfort.
As to the evolution of the disease, hearing problems get worse, but the frequency of the occurrence of crises decreases.
The diagnosis of Meniere's disease is based on the description of the clinical signs listed above, because it is rare that the crisis is directly observed by the medical profession. Some additional tests assist in making the diagnosis such as an MRI coming back normal and eliminating other possible causes like a tumor. An audiogram that tests the capabilities of hearing is often normal early in the disease, and its repetition will depict the gradual onset of deafness.
The treatment of Meniere's disease is based on both the treatment of crises, but also the background understanding of the disease. In a crisis, resting in a peaceful place is necessary because no specific treatment is known. The anxiety often associated with the disorder can best be reduced by anxiolytics. For background processing, a psychological support, sometimes supplemented by a treatment against anxiety if necessary, can be used. In some cases with a significant impact, a surgical treatment using different techniques is proposed. Surgery is sometimes a cause of permanent deafness.