with FPG Otolaryngologist Jack Wazen, MD
Meniere’s disease is a chronic inner ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss. During these episodes, symptoms can present individually or all at once, and they can range from mild and annoying to severe and debilitating.
The exact cause of Meniere’s disease is not yet known, though symptoms are believed to be related to build-up of fluid within the inner ear.
There is no cure for Meniere’s disease. There are, however, medical treatments and minimally invasive procedures that can help to effectively manage the symptoms.
“The myth is that there’s nothing that can be done if you have Meniere’s Disease,” says Dr. Jack Wazen, FPG Otolaryngologist and Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s Medical Director of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. “But that is certainly wrong.”
Meniere’s disease can cause a variety of symptoms, but the most common are vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss.
Vertigo: A sudden and unexplained spinning sensation, with no external cause. Most people will experience some form of vertigo in their lives, but vertigo due to Meniere’s disease can be exceptionally pronounced, to the point of causing nausea and diarrhea.
Tinnitus: An unexplained and persistent sound in the ear(s), with no external source. Often described as a “ringing,” it can also present as buzzing, clicking, hissing or even a pure tone.
Hearing loss: Though hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease often begins in one ear, both ears may be affected over time. Like episodes of vertigo or tinnitus that come and go, hearing loss may fluctuate with time.
Feelings of fullness and pressure in the ear are also common reported symptoms of Meniere’s disease, sometimes as a precursor to episodes of the more severe symptoms listed above.
These episodes recur unpredictably in those with Meniere’s disease, and can last for minutes or even hours. At their most severe, they can be debilitating.
Although there is yet no cure for Meniere’s disease, inner ear specialists and surgeons are discovering ways to treat and manage the symptoms. These treatments range from therapy and lifestyle changes to medications and surgery.
- Oral Medication: Anti-nausea and motion sickness medications have been shown to be effective in combating the severe vertigo associated with Meniere’s disease, and anti-anxiety medications can help reduce stress associated with the disorder.
- Cognitive Therapy: Part of managing symptoms includes managing one’s own response to those symptoms. Therapy can help develop coping mechanisms and reduce anxiety.
- Steroid Treatment: Some cases of Meniere’s disease respond very well to steroids administered to the inner ear. The difficulty lies in getting the medication into the labyrinth of the inner ear, where it needs to be. FPG physicians use the Silverstein Microwick (developed by FPG Otolaryngologist Dr. Herbert Silverstein) as a minimally invasive outpatient solution.
- Gentamicin Treatment: This antibiotic can be used to neutralize cells in the inner ear causing vertigo.
- Hearing Aid: For some instances of hearing loss due to Meniere’s, a simple hearing aid can greatly improve hearing.
- Surgery: For drug-resistant Meniere’s disease, surgical procedures that affect the nerves sending problematic signals from the inner ear to the brain can be used to eliminate vertigo and balance issues.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a majority of those with Meniere’s disease can successfully manage their vertigo without surgical intervention.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Affect Your Meniere’s Disease
While there are many things a doctor can do and provide to help manage Meniere’s Disease, there are also steps that you can take at home to help alleviate symptoms.
Stress Management: Stress is a big factor in Meniere’s disease and symptom flare-ups. Reducing stress can be key.
Diet: Reducing both salt and caffeine intake can help reduce symptoms. Alcohol consumption should also be kept to a minimum as well.
Smoking: Smoking cessation is important for symptom management.
Where to Go for Relief?
If you’re living with Meniere’s disease, talk to a doctor about diagnosis and treatment options.
Your primary care doctor can get you on the right track, or make an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, also called an Otolaryngologist at the First Physicians Group Silverstein Institute.
Jack Wazen, MD is the a board certified Otolaryngologist with First Physicians Group. He is also Medical Director of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.