Ménière's disease is a rare disorder that affects the inner ear. It can cause vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss, and a feeling of pressure deep inside the ear.
People with Ménière's disease usually experience these symptoms during sudden attacks that typically last around two to three hours, although it can take a day or two for the symptoms to disappear completely.
It's worth noting, however, that the symptoms and severity of Ménière's disease vary widely from person to person.
You should see your GP if you experience any of the symptoms of Ménière's disease so they can try to identify the problem and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Read more about the symptoms of Ménière's disease and diagnosing Ménière's disease.
How Ménière's disease progresses
Ménière's disease often progresses through different stages. In the early stages, most people have sudden and unpredictable attacks of vertigo, accompanied by nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
During the later stages, the episodes of vertigo tend to occur less frequently and sometimes stop altogether within five to 10 years. However, the tinnitus and hearing loss often become worse over time and you may be left with permanent balance problems.
Who is affected
In the UK, it's estimated that around one in 1,000 people have Ménière's disease.
Ménière's disease most commonly affects people aged 20-60 and it is thought to be slightly more common in women than men.
What causes Ménière's disease?
The exact cause of Ménière's disease is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a problem with the pressure deep inside the ear.
Things that can increase your risk of developing Ménière's disease include a family history of the condition and a chemical imbalance in the fluid in your inner ear.
Read more about the causes of Ménière's disease.
How Ménière's disease is treated
There is not yet an absolute cure for Ménière’s disease, but treatments can usually help people with the condition control their symptoms.
Possible treatments include:
- medications to treat the symptoms and prevent attacks
- changes to your diet, such as a low-salt diet
- balance training (vestibular rehabilitation)
- relaxation techniques
- surgery, in more severe cases
There are a number of different surgical procedures that may be used to treat people with Ménière’s disease, depending on how troublesome your symptoms are and whether only one or both ears are affected. However, there is still uncertainty about the effectiveness of some surgical treatments, and research is continuing in these areas.
Read more about the treatment of Ménière's disease.
Support and advice
People with Ménière's disease may also find the condition has a significant impact on their mental health. The unpredictable nature of the attacks and the restrictions this can place on your activities can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Your GP can offer advice and support if you are finding it difficult to cope with the effect Ménière's disease is having on your life. There are also a number of support groups, such as the Meniere's Society, that can provide assistance and advice.
Read more about living with Ménière's disease.