Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear. Meniere’s disease usually affects only one ear. It is a common cause of hearing loss.
Attacks of dizziness may come on suddenly or after a short period of tinnitus or muffled hearing. Some people will have single attacks of dizziness separated by long periods of time. Others may experience many attacks closer together over a number of days. Some people with Meniere’s disease have vertigo so extreme that they lose their balance and fall. Meniere’s disease can develop at any age, but it is more likely to happen to adults between 40 and 60 years of age.
The symptoms of Meniere’s disease are caused by the buildup of fluid in the compartments of the inner ear.
Researchers believe that Meniere’s disease is the result of constrictions in blood vessels similar to those that cause migraine headaches. Others think Meniere’s disease could be a consequence of viral infections, allergies, or autoimmune reactions. Because Meniere’s disease appears to run in families, it could also be the result of genetic variations. Because no single cause has been identified, it's likely that Meniere's disease is caused by a combination of factors.
There is no cure. Treatments include medicines to control dizziness, limiting salt in one’s diet, and taking water pills. A device that fits into the outer ear and delivers air pulses to the middle ear can help. Severe cases may require surgery.