Menieres Disease - Menieres's Disease In The UK

Menieres's Disease In The UK

Mnire's syndrome is a condition with sudden and recurring attacks of giddiness with nausea and vomiting, together with hearing loss and noises in the ears.

The symptoms of Mnire's have long been recognised, and for many years it was believed that the condition was a form of epilepsy. Indeed Julius Caesar was reputed to be a sufferer, so this condition has been around a long time.

In 1861 a Frenchman by the name of prosper Mnire's presented a medical paper outlining work he was carrying out with patients who had presented the above symptoms. He asserted that the condition was not a dysfunction of the brain as was previously thought, but was in fact a dysfunction of the ear.

His colleagues were extremely sceptical and he was howled down, but as time went on his hypothesis gained acceptance. Today the disease bears his name.

What causes Mnire's Disease

Mnire's Disease is believed to occur when the pressure of endolymphatic fluid in the inner ear increases. This increase in pressure destroys vital cells and can precipitate an attack.

The first attack may last hours or days, and during the attack the sufferer may be unable to move. The next attack may be days or years away.

What happens during an attack

The attack may present itself in several ways, varying in intensity. The sufferer may experience one or more of the following;

  • Vertigo and falling over
  • Vomiting
  • An inability to look up
  • An inability to walk straight in the dark
  • Difficulty in judging distances
  • Difficulty in sleeping

These symptoms may be accompanied by tinnitus and hearing loss, and the sufferer may fear a brain tumour or other incurable disease. Even when diagnosed with Mnire's the patient may still experience anxieties which can lead to;

  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Family upsets
  • Job insecurity
  • Lack of self esteem and questioning one's credibility, perhaps because appointments may be broken or the fear of letting people down at short notice.

There is no known cure for Mnire's, but fortunately the attack, or 'spin', is usually preceded by a warning. This can be recognised as a fullness in the head or ears, increased tinnitus, distorted hearing finally followed by disturbed balance.

It is believed Mnire's Disease may have a genetic link, and much research has been carried out on affected families. Interestingly the condition seems to be restricted to Caucasian's

Treatment and rehabilitation

First a question. If Mnire's is due to excess fluid, will reduction of the fluid levels help The answer is yes, and this is one way that Mnire's is managed. It is often suggested that people can reduce salt intake, as salt can lead to fluid retention. Some people find this very helpful. At the same time increasing the blood supply to the ear assists the removal of excess fluids, so drugs are prescribed to stimulate the blood flow.

For some, certain foods can bring on an attack. Common culprits include cheese, strawberries and anything containing caffeine such as coffee, tea and chocolate. This has given rise to the belief that there may be an allergic factor. Antihistamines have provided some relief in a few people. Others have tried complementary therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy. As we can see, some treatments only work for some people.

What about surgery It is estimated that there are about 20 surgical techniques, mostly involving destruction of part of the inner ear. Therefore these procedures are only carried out as a last resort. Such operations will not cure the Mnire's Disease, but the nerves which transmit the feelings of nausea and dizziness are severed. In this technique called a neurectomy there are risks of permanent deafness and facial paralysis which need to be considered.


Mnire's patients can ease their condition through a number of self help techniques;

  • Avoiding over exertion
  • Avoiding stress
  • Getting out of bed slowly
  • In a car or bus sitting on the side opposite oncoming traffic.
  • Avoiding the edge of railway platforms
  • Keeping to the centre of the pavement
  • Using an umbrella or walking stick, or a personal shopping trolley for balance

The Mnire's Society

The Mnire's Society was formed in 1984 by Marie Nobbs MBE, a former chairman of Hearing Concern whose husband had suffered with this condition. Following it's launch on BBC TV's "See Hear" programme it quickly grew, becoming a registered charity in 1987. Today it boasts many local self help groups and its medical advisory committee has access to over 2000 cases.

The Society can advise on coping strategies and management of the condition. A quarterly newsletter is produced for members - "Spin" - and a range of literature has been published.

The Mnire's Society
98 Maybury Road
GU21 5HX
Telephone: 01483 740597

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