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Meniere’s Disease

Ménière’s disease is a long term, progressive vestibular condition affecting the balance and hearing parts of the inner ear. There is no cure for Ménière’s disease but it can be managed by medications and therapy.

Ménière’s is associated with unpredictable attacks of:

  • Vertigo (severe dizziness)
  • Fluctuating tinnitus
  • Increasing deafness
  • Feeling of pressure deep within the ear.

During an attack, you may also experience:

  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Ringing or buzzing inside your ear
  • A sudden drop of hearing.

Symptoms vary between people and over time, but an attack of hearing loss without vertigo is uncommon. Attacks can last from a few minutes to 24 hours and can take a day or 2 for the symptoms to disappear completely. You may feel tired after an attack.

Attacks can happen in clusters, or several times a week, or they may be separated by weeks, months or years. This makes Ménière’s an unpredictable and distressing condition.

As it progresses the vertigo may be less severe; however there may be periods of imbalance, adding to the distress. In the later stages tinnitus is more prominent and fluctuating hearing loss develops. There is permanent damage to the balance organ and significant balance problems are common. Usually only one ear is affected, but up to 50% of sufferers may develop the condition in both ears.


Who does it affect?

The incidence of Ménière’s is between 1:1000 and 1:2000 of the population; depending on the source. Méniére’s can affect anyone and it can occur at any age, although most commonly affecting people between 20 and 60, being uncommon in children. About 7-10% of those affected have a family history of the condition.

What causes Ménière’s ?

The cause of Ménière’s is unknown, although it is likely that Ménière’s disease is caused by a combination of factors.

Factors that are thought to increase your risk include:

  • Poor fluid drainage in your ear
  • An immune system disorder
  • Allergies
  • A viral infection, such as meningitis
  • A family history of Ménière’s disease
  • A head injury
  • Migraines.

Treatment for Ménière’s disease

There is no cure for Ménière’s, but treatment is aimed at reducing and controlling symptoms of vertigo, nausea and vomiting. As Ménière’s is symptomatic, treatment will vary with the needs of each individual and includes medication, vestibular rehabilitation, diet and lifestyle changes, tinnitus management, hearing aids and counselling.

In four out of five people non-surgical measures are sufficient to control the symptoms of Ménière’s; however, if vertigo remains a problem surgical procedures can help.

There are also support groups and organisations, such as the Ménière’s Society, that can provide help and advice.


What to do during an attack of Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease can cause you to lose balance.

At the first sign of an attack you should:

  • take your vertigo medicine if you have some
  • sit or lie down
  • close your eyes, or keep them fixed on a still object in front of you
  • do not turn your head quickly
  • if you need to move, do so slowly and carefully.

Once the attack is over, try to move around to help your eyesight and other senses compensate for the problems in your inner ear.

As there is a large element of distress, alongside interference with your balance systems, specialist vestibular physiotherapists are well placed to help manage this condition through a combination of advice and education, goal-setting and management plans and vestibular rehabilitation.

Call us on 0114 267 1223 to book an appointment with one of our specialist vestibular physiotherapists to see how we can help.

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