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Patient education: Meniere disease (The Basics)

Patient education: Meniere disease (The Basics)

What is Meniere disease? — Meniere disease is a condition that causes dizziness and problems with hearing. It is sometimes called Meniere's disease.

What causes Meniere disease? — Meniere disease is caused by a build-up of fluid in the inside of the ear. Doctors are not sure why the fluid builds up.

What are the symptoms of Meniere disease? — People with Meniere disease have these 3 symptoms:

Vertigo – This is the medical term for when you feel dizzy and like you are spinning, swaying, or tilting. You might also feel like the room is moving around you. Some people with vertigo feel sick to their stomach (nausea) and throw up. People with Meniere disease usually have episodes of vertigo which can start suddenly and last several minutes to a few hours.

Tinnitus – This is the medical term for when you hear a buzzing, ringing, or hissing noise in 1 or sometimes both ears. People with Meniere disease often say the noise sounds like listening to machinery or the inside of a seashell. This noise can come and go with vertigo episodes, or happen separately.

Hearing loss – You might temporarily lose your hearing, or notice that you can't hear as well, during an episode of vertigo. But over time, usually about 8 to 10 years, hearing loss can slowly become permanent.

Some people with Meniere disease also get a feeling of pressure in their ears.

Is there a test for Meniere disease? — There is no test for Meniere, but there are tests for some of its symptoms. Your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have Meniere disease by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam.

You will be tested for hearing loss. In some cases, you might also be tested for balance problems.

A hearing test (also called "audiometry") – This can tell how much hearing loss you have had.

Balance testing – For one of these tests, you will have small devices called "electrodes" put near your eyes to measure your eye movements while you move your head and eyes. For other tests, you sit in a special chair that spins, or you stand on a platform that moves. Special devices measure how your body responds to the movements.

Your doctor might also do an imaging test to make sure you do not have a different problem. Imaging tests show pictures of the inside of the body. An MRI is an imaging test that allows the doctor to see parts of your brain. Sometimes, a test called a CT scan of the head is done instead of an MRI.

Occasionally, your doctor might order blood tests.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. You might feel better if you avoid eating and drinking things that make your symptoms worse. These things can include:

Salt and salty foods

Monosodium glutamate (also called "MSG") – This is a substance sometimes added to certain foods (such as Chinese food and packaged foods) to make them taste better.

Coffee, tea, sodas, or other drinks that have caffeine in them


You should also stop smoking, if you smoke.

How is Meniere disease treated? — Treatments include:

Medicines to treat dizziness and nausea – These can help you feel better when you get symptoms.

Medicines called "diuretics" – These can help with fluid or swelling in the inner ear. These medicines are taken regularly to help prevent symptoms.

Special exercises to help with your balance – Your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist (exercise expert) to teach you these exercises.

Steroid medicines – These can be helpful for people who still have symptoms even though they take diuretics. They can be taken by mouth or as a shot that your doctor gives in your ear.

Surgery – Your doctor might recommend surgery if your symptoms are so bad that you are not able to drive, work, or do active things you used to be able to do. But surgery might make your hearing worse.

A hearing aid – You might need a hearing aid if you have permanent hearing loss. This can be very helpful to help you function in your regular life.

There is no evidence that any special vitamins or herbal treatments are helpful in treating Meniere disease.

More on this topic

Patient education: Vertigo (a type of dizziness) (The Basics)
Patient education: Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) (The Basics)

Patient education: Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Vertigo (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 03, 2022.
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