Cogan's syndrome is a rare, rheumatic disease characterized by inflammation of the ears and eyes. Cogan's syndrome can lead to vision difficulty, hearing loss and dizziness. The condition may also be associated with blood-vessel inflammation in other areas of the body that can cause major organ damage. It is currently thought that Cogan's syndrome is an autoimmune disease. The inflammation in the eye and ear are due to the patient's own immune system producing antibodies that attack the inner ear and eye tissue.
Characteristics of Cogan's syndrome include:
- Rapid onset of hearing loss, with or without eye inflammation
- Vertigo, dizziness, nausea
- No balance or severe gait, walking as if drunk
- Tinnitus, constant bells, ringing, variations of hums.
Cogan's syndrome is a chronic (long-lasting) disease. Symptoms come and go, or respond well to treatment, but usually the disease is prolonged or even lifelong.
Mild eye disease may be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, including steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are applied to the eye. If these medications do not work well enough, oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline (sold under many brand names), may be recommended in case an infection is causing the eye inflammation.
Many people with Cogan's syndrome have permanent visual or hearing damage. The condition is fatal in less than 10% of patients. However, most patients are able to manage their symptoms with medication and limit complications of the disease with treatment.