What is Meniere’s Disease?
Meniere’s Disease is a condition affecting inner ear and leading to symptoms of imbalance. The condition results due to abnormal levels of endolymph in the membranous labyrinth.
Labyrinth is another name for inner ear which has a bony part and a membranous part. The membranous part of inner ear is filled with a fluid known as endolymph. This fluid has very specific chemical composition , balancing sodium and potassium ions in the required proportion.
The labyrinth also has a bony part which is divided into vestibule, semi-circular canals and cochlea. Together, all 3 organs are responsible for conduction of sound waves from ear to brain and back. Another function of inner ear is maintaining equilibrium helping to balance the body while performing any movement. The inner ear is able to do so, by sending sensory signals to brain with respect to position of the head.
Disturbances in these physiological functions leads to development of Meniere’s Disease.
How Does Meniere’s Disease Develop?
Now that the dysfunctional changes leading to Meniere’s Disease have been established, it is important to know what leads to these changes and how does the disease develop.
Given below are some factors which trigger Meniere’s Disease:
Viral Infection: Viral infection of inner of middle ear, herpes zoaster virus affecting auditory nerve and its branches, are some of the factors which could trigger development of Meniere’s Disease.
Auto-Immune Response: Patient’s immune system could develop defensive response against their own body tissues, in some cases. Anti-bodies created against inner ear, hamper its physiological functions and lead to symptoms of Meniere’s Disease.
Allergic Reaction: Allergic response to any stimulus that affects ear, nose or throat could lead to development of Meniere’s Disease. This is more likely to occur, when the allergic reaction is quite abnormal or is left unchecked for a long time.
Irregular Drainage of Endolypmh: Endolymph is the fluid present within membranous part of inner ear. It helps in maintaining balance of the body while performing any action. In order to do so, endolymph has to present in a specific amount only; anything more or less will lead to symptoms of imbalance while walking, running etc. This could happen when drainage of endolymph is faulty, leading to excess of very little of endolymph.
Head Injury : A traumatic impact to the head could lead to disruption of tissues lying within. Contusion to the labyrinth, vestibules or semicircular canals could lead to abnormalities in hearing and body equilibrium.
What happens after Meniere’s Disease develops, is explained in the next section of this article.
What Symptoms A Patient of Meniere’s Disease Experience?
If you or anybody you know is experiencing some or all of the below mentioned symptoms, the condition is highly likely to be Meniere’s Disease.
Loss of Hearing: Due to disturbances in endolypmh, adequate sensory signals are not sent to the auditory nerve. This leads to reduction or complete loss of hearing capacity. The condition is temporary and can be reverted with proper treatment.
Vertigo: Dysfunctional changes in the vestibule and semicircular canals will lead to loss of balance while performing any movement. Patients often tend to feel dizzy and lose conscious temporarily in more severe cases.
Tinnitus: Due to faulty conduction via auditory nerves, patients often experience weird buzzing sounds in their ears.
Fullness of ears as if they were blocked is often experienced by patients.
It is essential to visit an E.N.T specialist if these symptoms are experienced recurrently. There is a possibility of some deeper pathology involved which may require immediate medical attention.
Read to know more about treatment of Meniere’s Disease.
How is Meniere’s Disease Treated?
Prior to administering treatment, doctor will confirm the diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease by taking a short history and performing a thorough physical examination for the patient.
Any of the following treatment options will be used depending on patient’s general health, symptoms, immunity etc.
Medication: Medicines are prescribed for vertigo and symptoms associated with it, like nausea and vomiting. Long term medicines may be prescribed to keep qualities of endolymph in check.
Physiotherapy: Patients may find physiotherapy beneficial for getting rid of vertigo and loss of balance.
Hearing Aid: Using a hearing aid temporarily may be helpful in restoring normal auditory functions, till complaints of Meniere’s Disease resolve.
Follow Up: Regular visits to the doctor at specific time intervals is as important as mainstream itself. Diagnostic tests like audiometry, nystagmography may be used in order to track patients’ progress. It is mandatory to complete all follow up appointments in order to ensure complete treatment.
In order to get comprehensive and best quality treatment, patients must visit a good E.N.T hospital that has excellent diagnostic and therapeutic facilities. A good hospital will always have a panel of well qualified and experienced doctors who will provide quality medical services.