Meniere’s disease is an uncommon illness that affects the inner ear. Though the United States didn’t officially recognize this disease until 1995, it was first discovered by a French physician back in 1861. Prosper Meniere first understood that the weird sensations associated with this condition were caused by the inner ear rather than the brain, as it was previously thought.
He was the father of understanding when it came to balancing disorders and troubles with the inner ear, according to VEDA. This organization specializes in the scientific study of this condition. You can be diagnosed with Meniere’s at any age, but the most diagnosed age group is 40 – 60 years old.
Each year, more than 45,000 new cases are discovered, which adds to the already 615,000 people suffering. It’s an unusual condition, but the number of diagnoses is on an upswing per the article.
What Causes This Unbearable Condition?
Those who have a family history of Meniere’s Disease are more likely to be diagnosed with it than those with no genetic disposition. Anything that can damage the inner ear and cause the fluid levels to be off can trigger. Some experts believe that it’s caused by a circulation problem, while others feel it came from a viral infection like Epstein Barr.
Allergies are another common issue that can cause an imbalance of fluid in the inner ear, so it cannot be ruled out. Lastly, it’s even believed that chronic migraine headaches can be a trigger.
Sixteen Common Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease
Dealing with Meniere’s Disease can be debilitating. Since each case is different, one person might experience many symptoms, while another individual only has one. Oddly, this condition tends to affect only one ear, and it’s scarce for it to affect both.
This condition produces sudden attacks, which can last a few hours or days. Eventually, the symptoms disappear, and the person goes back to a normal state. Here are the most observed symptoms:
- Loss of equilibrium – balance disturbance
- Lightheaded or dizzy feeling
- Severe headaches
- Increased pressure in the ear
- Tinnitus – loud whistling noise in the ear
- Hearing loss or periodic hearing loss
- Sensitivity to sound
- Uneasy feeling
- Violent vertigo
- Eye twitches
- Blurred vision
- Palpitations or fast pulse
- Cold sweats
- Chills or shaking
- Nausea or vomiting
Some of the symptoms come from the disease itself, while others are caused by the panic and anxiety it brings. Finding essential treatment is the best way to manage this horrific condition.
Understanding the Phases of Meniere’s Disease
Doctors have divided this disease into distinct phases. It’s not uncommon for you to have vertigo and lightheadedness that comes with nausea and vomiting during the early stage. Keep in mind that the severity of the attacks will vary.
During vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus become worse, and some permanent loss can develop. As the disease progresses, vertigo will stop altogether or occur infrequently. However, by this time, your hearing loss and tinnitus are so bad that it’s taking your hearing and balance with it.
There is no cure or surgical intervention for this disease, so a person must adjust to a new normal and live with a loss of one of their primary senses.
Doctors divide treatment options into two categories. The first goal is to reduce the frequency and the severity of your attacks. Using medications, doctors can control this condition by about 80 percent, according to Cochrane.
However, drugs used are often antibiotics like gentamicin, and taking antibiotics long term is not always the best option. You can also reduce the sodium by taking water pills, but these have some unpleasant side effects. Some medications can be used during an attack to help lessen the symptoms; the most used are:
*It should be noted that medications like Ativan and valium belong to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These are highly addictive and meant to be used for the short term and not as a long-term solution.
•Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy
VRT is a widely used therapy known to help retrain the brain to process balance information differently. One of the most unsettling problems of this disease is the unbalance that it causes.
If more conservative options aren’t successful, then doctors look to this as a next step. Sadly, this process is only successful in 20-40 percent of people.
• Risky Treatments
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when people aren’t responding to other methods, doctors often use riskier methods. Using shots of intratympanic gentamicin, a physician can demolish the vestibular tissue by injecting the medication into the ear.
In recent times, the use of intratympanic steroid injections has proven beneficial. The difference in using this than the other methods is that there is less hearing loss, and the balance complications are lessened.
• Surgical Intervention
Surgery is always the last option. There are currently two available types of surgery. The first one is to relieve the excessive pressure that exists in the inner ear. Sadly, there are some questions about these procedures’ long-term effectiveness, so they are not used as much today as they were before.
The second type of surgery is to stop the signals from the ear to the brain. The goal is to destroy the inner ear to not send confusing alerts to the brain, which triggers the symptoms. However, extensive physical therapy is required to teach the brain to compensate for the loss.
For those who want a more conservative route, a Meniere’s diet may be what you need. It works well for about 40 percent of those that are suffering, according to the Meniere’s Organization.
While a strict diet cannot cure this disease, it can certainly help to manage the symptoms. If you start journaling your attacks and see what you ate right before it, you may be able to start eliminating foods based on that alone. However, the goal is to reduce your sodium intake by about 40 percent.
The average person needs about 2,500 mg of sodium each day, but a person who has Meniere’s disease should eat about 1,500 mg. If your episodes are diet-triggered, you can easily lessen them by controlling what you eat. This diet is often successful because this disease depends on the blood system and fluid balance within the body.
By eliminating things that make you retain water, you can help alleviate the inner ear’s pressure. It would help if you familiarized yourself with high sodium and sugars as these both are triggering the body to hold water. So, what can you eat and what should you avoid?
First, toss the saltshaker to the curb. You can use a natural seasoning to help replace it. You can get enough sodium from foods without adding anything to them. Here is a list to take with you to the grocery store or to use for meal planning.
Foods to Avoid
•Candy and junk food
•Anything with high-fructose corn syrup in it
•Chocolate of all varieties
•Canned soups, vegetables, beans, and fruits
•Pre-made salad dressings
•Canned/jarred spaghetti sauce
•Any beverage with caffeine in it
•Items with long shelf lives
Many of these items use sodium to help extend the shelf life and preserve it, but these can be dangerous to someone who has Meniere’s.
•Lentils and beans
•Whole grains (oats, barley, wheat, rye, and spelt)
•Vegetables such as ginger, beets, asparagus, cucumbers, kale, chard, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, arugula, turnips, and broccoli.
•Fruits such as watermelon, lemons, peaches, plantains, and pineapples.
•Fresh meat – nothing processed
It’s best to get a nutritionist to help get you on a good eating plan to manage your condition. Adjusting your food habits is challenging, but those desperate to stop the attacks’ frequency will do just about anything. The key to Meniere’s diet is to be diligent and consistent or have little benefit.
Living with any medical condition is difficult. However, when you consider Meniere’s Disease, it’s incredibly challenging because it alters your ability to walk, hear, and live everyday life. Many are forced into a disability because the symptoms have become debilitating.
There have been some advances in treating this condition, but the tried-and-true method is to alter your diet and use medication for fast action during an attack. In rare instances, surgical intervention may be necessary, but it’s often risky and can cause permanent alterations to the brain and inner ear connection.
If you have Meniere’s Disease, there is a comprehensive support unit online that can help you adjust to your new normal. While there is no cure, you can learn to manage it with various treatments and support from others and the medical community.