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Ménière's Disease

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What is Ménière's disease?

Ménière's (say "men-YEERS") disease is an inner ear camera.gif problem that affects your hearing and balance. It normally occurs in only one ear at a time. But over time, it develops in the other ear in up to half of those who have it.

The disease usually occurs in people ages 40 to 60, but anyone can have it.

What causes Ménière's disease?

The cause of Ménière's disease is not known. But it may be related to a fluid called endolymph in the inner ear. In people with Ménière's disease, too much of this fluid builds up. This creates pressure in the parts of your inner ear that control balance. Experts aren't sure why this fluid builds up. It may be that your body produces too much of the fluid. Or maybe the fluid doesn't drain as it should from the inner ear. Or it may be both.

It's hard to predict who will get Ménière's disease. But your risk may be higher than normal if you have:

What are the symptoms?

Ménière's disease can cause symptoms that come on quickly and last from hours to days. During an attack, you may have:

  • Vertigo, the feeling that you or your surroundings are spinning. This may last from minutes to hours. It may be bad enough to cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Tinnitus, a low roaring, ringing, or hissing in your ear.
  • Hearing loss, which may be temporary or permanent.
  • A feeling of pressure or fullness in your ear.

Most people have repeated attacks over a period of years. Attacks usually happen more often during the first few years of the disease and then come less often after that.

In some cases, each attack damages the inner ear. Over time your inner ear may become so badly damaged that it no longer works as it should. Then the attacks may stop, but you may be left with:

  • Poor balance.
  • Permanent hearing loss.
  • Roaring or hissing in the affected ear.

A few people with Ménière's disease have "drop attacks." A drop attack is a sudden fall while you stand or walk. It occurs without warning. It may feel like you are suddenly being pushed to the ground. People who have these attacks don't pass out, and they recover within seconds or minutes.

See a doctor right away if you think you have Ménière's disease. Prompt diagnosis and treatment may reduce both the discomfort of the attacks and your risk of hearing loss.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 06, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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