Causes of Ménière’s disease 

The exact cause of Ménière's disease isn't clear, although it's thought to be caused by a problem with the pressure in the inner ear.

The inner ear is made up of:

  • the cochlea – a coiled, spiral tube that contains two fluid-filled chambers and is responsible for hearing
  • the vestibular apparatus – a complex set of tubes that help to control balance

The fluid inside the inner ear is called endolymph.

If the pressure of the endolymph fluid changes – for example, because there is too much fluid – it can result in symptoms such as vertigo and tinnitus.

It's thought that this pressure change is responsible for Ménière's disease, although it hasn't been proven.

Increased risk

Although the exact cause of Ménière's disease is unknown, the following factors may increase the risk of developing the condition:

  • autoimmunity – when your immune system attacks your own tissues and organs by mistake
  • genetic (inherited) factors – for example, if you have a family history of the condition
  • a chemical imbalance in the fluid in your inner ear – as a result of too little or too much sodium or potassium in your body
  • a problem with the blood vessels – there's a link between Ménière's disease and migraines, which are thought to be caused by the narrowing and widening of blood vessels
  • some viral infections – such as meningitis

Media last reviewed:

Next review due:

Page last reviewed: 16/01/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2017