About Ménière's Disease

Nobody knows what causes Ménière’s disease – an unpredictable and debilitating condition that causes vertigo, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears.

Definition

Ménière's disease is an inner ear condition that causes dizziness or vertigo, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). The disease usually affects one ear, but can occur in both.

Causes

Prosper Ménière, a French doctor, first described the disease. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it is believed that excess fluid inside the hearing and balance canals of your inner ear may be a factor.

This fluid, called endolymph, sends signals to the brain about your hearing and balance. Too much fluid can cause swelling in the inner ear. It is believed that this swelling distorts the information sent to your brain, causing the symptoms of Ménière's disease.1-3

Symptoms

Ménière’s disease usually involves a combination of these symptoms:

  • Dizziness or vertigo, an extreme dizziness that makes you unable to stand or sit up, often with nausea and vomiting
  • Ringing or roaring in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Hearing loss
  • A feeling of pressure in the ear

Symptoms are often unpredictable, which can negatively affect quality of life.4 It can sometimes take several days to recover from a severe vertigo attack.

Diagnosis

Ménière’s disease can be difficult to diagnose as other conditions sometimes cause similar symptoms. To find out if you have Ménière’s disease, your doctor will take your medical history, perform a physical exam, and conduct a few tests for hearing and balance. You may have additional tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

References

  1. Torok N. 1977. Old and new in Ménière’s disease. The Laryngoscope. 87(11):1870-1877.
  2. Schuknecht HF. 1975. Pathophysiology of Ménière’s disease. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 8(2):507-514.
  3. Gulya AJ, Schuknecht HF. 1982. Classification of endolymphatic hydrops. Am J Otolaryngol. 3(5):319-322.
  4. Anderson JP, Harris JP. 2001. Impact of Ménière’s disease on quality of life. Otol Neurotol. 22:888-894.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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