Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is it Really Meniere's?

Meniere’s Syndrome - Frequently Misdiagnosed

Meniere’s syndrome is a disorder of the inner ear affecting balance and hearing.  The inner ear has fluid-filled chambers and canals. These chambers and canals, sending information from your inner ear to your brain, help interpret your body's position and maintain your balance.  Meniere's occurs when a part of this system, called the endolymphatic sac, becomes swollen. This sac helps filter and remove fluid in the semicircular canals.  An attack of Meniere’s usually appears without warning and the severity of each episode varies.  It generally affects only one ear, but may affect both in at least 20% of patients.

The symptoms of Meniere’s include recurrent vertigo (spinning sensation) spells usually lasting 20 minutes to several hours, hearing loss, low-pitched tinnitus and a sense of fullness or pressure in the involved ear.  Symptoms are generally worse with head movements.  The hearing loss is in the low frequency range.  In the early disease process the hearing may recover between attacks but eventually will lead to some degree of permanent hearing loss.  The tinnitus usually sounds like a low-pitched roar.

There is no known cure for Meniere’s disease.  Some lifestyle changes and medications can generally relieve symptoms.  Reducing salt (sodium) in the diet and the use of water-pills (diuretics) may relieve vertigo symptoms.  Other factors that may influence Meniere’s attacks and should be avoided if possible include alcohol use, fatigue, smoking and stress.  If symptoms are not adequately controlled by reduced salt intake and/or diuretic medication, there are several surgical procedures that may be effective in controlling symptoms.  The latest advances in surgical procedures include minimally invasive surgical techniques, including the injection of steroids or gentamicin (an antibiotic which is toxic to the inner ear) across the ear drum.

Unfortunately, Meniere’s is a condition that is over-diagnosed, meaning that many are diagnosed with it but they don’t really have it.  If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Meniere’s and do not have hearing loss and/or are under the age of 40, consider obtaining a second opinion, as most who are improperly diagnosed with Meniere’s are suffering from vestibular migraines.

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