14 Meniere’s Disease Questions Answered

  • By Dizzy & Vertigo Institute
  • June 30, 2020
You may have led a much more active and less frightening life before sporadic dizzy spells began haunting you. Never knowing when the entire world, or at least your body’s perception of it, would be swept up by a malfunctioning merry-go-round that goes way too fast. Meniere’s disease is an invisible illness that affects about 0.2% of the population. It is difficult to cope with and even more difficult for others to understand. Through support groups found on The Mighty, resources like Mind Over Meniere’s, and doctors like us helping you work through the symptoms, you can salvage bits and pieces of what dizziness took from you. Although there isn’t a cure, we can help you rehabilitate your lingering symptoms after an attack. Schedule a free consultation with us here. Also, we’ve compiled a list of the common questions to help you better understand Meniere’s disease.

How Long does a Meniere’s Attack Last?

A typical episode of Meniere’s disease starts with fullness in one ear, hearing fluctuations, and tinnitus. A Meniere’s ‘attack’ will include severe true rotational vertigo, nausea, and vomiting. Although the duration of symptoms varies, they typically last anywhere between two to four hours. Many people sleep off the experience because it is so exhausting.

Why do my ears feel so full?

The aural fullness is what’s called endolymphatic hydrops. Part of your balance is dictated by fluid in your inner ear and how that fluid moves when your head turns. Those with Meniere’s have abnormal fluctuations in the fluid (called endolymph) which fills the hearing and balance structures of the inner ear. Your ears feel full because they literally are full of endolymph.

Do Doctors Misdiagnose Meniere’s Disease?

YES! Unfortunately, doctors misdiagnose Meniere’s Disease frequently because there is no definitive test for Meniere’s and other balance disorders have the same symptoms. For the most accurate diagnosis, see a Neuro-otologist or Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist with a specific focus on vestibular disorders in their practice.

What causes Meniere’s?

The origin of Meniere’s disease is still debated. In the past, it was felt that the aural fullness – improper fluid control in the ear – was responsible for the disease. But the most current opinion is that hydrops is a marker for Meniere’s disease – rather than necessarily being responsible for the symptoms. Other theories include an autoimmune reaction, a genetic connection, circulation problems, migraine, and viral infection. It’s still an unknown, which is partly why no “Advil cure” exists.

What treatments are available for Meniere’s Disease?

Although there’s no cure, we can manage the symptoms in a variety of ways. Limiting caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and salt, have been effective in reducing vertigo attacks. Patients diagnosed with Ménière’s disease are typically counseled to adopt a low-salt diet (1,500-2,000 mg per day), and some are also started on a diuretic. Steroid therapy has also been utilized for treatment of symptoms associated with Ménière’s disease, especially in patients with a sudden decrease in hearing. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT): Can be helpful with lingering imbalance between attacks. The goal is to retrain the ability of the ears, eyes, muscles and brain to process balance information correctly. Therapy can assist in regaining confidence with head and body movements. Within the last 10 years, surgical options have expanded to include minimally invasive inner ear chemical perfusions and endolymphatic sac decompression (ELS).

What do allergies have to do with Meniere’s Disease?

A fairly high correlation of seasonal allergies exists in patients diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, and studies have shown a significant decrease in vertigo symptoms for these patients after implementing allergy-avoidance behaviors and/or starting immunotherapy for allergies (link).

How do I overcome Brain Fog?

Brain Fog is one of those unfortunate lingering symptoms that seems to show up in so many illnesses – including the dizzy patient. For the forgetfulness part of brain fog, the tried and true is the best solution. Sticky notes, alarms, calendars, notes apps, dry erase boards, lists, etc. For the foggy part of brain fog, where you struggle to form thoughts and grasp at ideas, is the real drag. Unfortunately, the “limitless pill” doesn’t exist. The best medicine is doing your best to not give into the frustration.

What can and can’t I do with Meniere’s Disease?

Although there isn’t a de-facto guide to living with Meniere’s disease, many patients struggle traveling and with physical activity. At the same time, everyone experiences vestibular disorders differently.

How do you travel with Meniere’s Disease?

These are a few of the tips that circle around the Meniere’s community. They’re first-hand experiences so they may or may not fit you:
  • Long car rides are out. Flying (with minimal to no layover) is in.
  • Wear sunglasses to avoid visual triggers such as flashing lights.
  • Limit screen scrolling, as this can be a motion sickness trigger.
  • Motion sickness pills and sleep aid pills if necessary.
  • Plan rest periods or days into your vacation/trip.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

How do you work with Meniere’s Disease?

The first course of action is speaking with your boss or team so that they understand what you’re going through. It’s important to emphasize how work flexibility is the best way for you to remain productive. There’s no sense in staring at your office computer when your head is spinning and your ear is ringing. These are some options to implement:
  • Reduced office hours where you’re required to be at the office.
  • Reasonable adjustments can be made because the Equality Act 2010 covers Meniere’s
  • Stress and work are often synonymous. Limiting and coping with stress through yoga, tai chi, meditation, breathing techniques, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs, etc.

What shouldn’t I eat with Meniere’s Disease?

Many doctors advise limiting caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and salt, as effective in reducing vertigo attacks. Adopting a low-salt diet (1,500-2,000 mg per day) can be effective as well. Additionally, it’s worth getting an allergy test done to see if you have any hidden food allergies. This is because food allergies cause acute migraines, among other symptoms.

Is there a silver lining to Meniere’s Disease?

It seems like an odd question, but there is always an optimist out there looking for a light switch in the dark room. One of those optimists is Candice-Renee Palacio Carrillo. Here are the three things she’s gained from having Meniere’s disease:
  • Meniere’s disease took away my hearing. But it gave me an appreciation for the other senses I still have. It gave me a reason to learn sign language and fall in love with deaf culture.
  • Meniere’s disease took my balance away. But it helped me find balance in my life by leaning on the support of my family and God.
  • Meniere’s disease took away my social life. But it introduced me to a community of other supportive Meniere’s disease patients who know exactly what I’m going through. I find comfort and strength through their shared experiences that I can relate to.

What should I do if I think I have Meniere’s disease?

Consult your nearest Neuro-otologist or Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist with a specific focus on vestibular disorders in their practice. During the diagnosis process a hearing test (audiometry), a pressure test (tympanometry), in addition to several balance tests (VNG, rotational chair studies and a VEMP) will be performed. Imaging (MRI of the head) and blood tests (ANA, FTA) can also be performed.

What should I do if I have Meniere’s disease, but need help managing the symptoms?

The Dizzy & Vertigo Insitute, located in Los Angeles, is here to help you. Knowledge is power and understanding the disease can help cope with the symptoms. Talking with our health care providers, collaborating with your treating physician, engaging with other people who are experiencing the same disease, and following up with updated information are all helpful. Schedule a consultation with us here, or give us a call at (310) 954-2207

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