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Menieres Disease - What Is It?

What Is It?

What is it

Mnire's disease , also called Mnire's syndrome or endolymphatic hydrops, is a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodic bouts of severe vertigo and fluctuant hearing levels. It typically begins between the ages of 20 and 50, affecting men and women equally. The problem appears to arise from an abnormality of the tissue lining the canals of the inner ear. This lining produces and filters the endolymph - the fluid that fills the balancing and hearing mechanisms of the inner ear. When an excessive amount of fluid distends the labyrinth, the pattern of stimulation of the hair-like nerve fibers within the canals may become distorted. The brain cannot properly interpret these conflicting signals-it would be as if one canal were telling the brain that the person were reclining and another were telling the brain that the person stood erect. Unable to determine the correct signal, the brain attempts to incorporate all of them, with the result being a sensation of spinning. The symptoms wax and wane as the pressure in the fluid rises and falls.

Along with the episodic vertigo, people suffering from Mnire's disease often have other symptoms including impaired hearing of low-frequency tones that may worsen with time, ringing in the ears (in this case, a ringing that takes on a low-tone blowing quality), and a sense of fullness in the ear. The disorder usually affects only one ear but in one-third of cases it may affect both ears; the second ear affected is typically less seriously impaired. Although the above cluster of symptoms is characteristic of typical Mnire's disease, atypical forms of the disorder have also been identified and may respond to the therapy used to treat Mnire's disease .

What causes the problem to develop is unclear in most cases, but two causes are known: head trauma and syphilis. Sometimes a variant of migraine accompanies episodic bouts of vertigo; it resembles Mnire's disease but lacks hearing impairment and ringing in the ears. The cause of this variant, called recurrent vestibulopathy, is also unknown but it is likely that it is mediated by blood vessel spasms.

This disorder may cause an increased visual dependency - that is, people with Mnire's disease may become more dependent on information received visually to help them keep their balance.

Symptoms

  • Episodes of vertigo lasting minutes to hours that may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting;
  • variable hearing loss;
  • ringing in the ears;
  • ear pressure or fullness.

What your doctor looks for

Abnormal caloric test (stimulation with warm and cold water) of the inner ear.

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