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Ménière's Disease

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How is Ménière's disease diagnosed?

To diagnose the disease, your doctor will do a physical exam that includes checking your ears, eyes, and nervous system. The doctor will also ask questions about your past health and your symptoms, such as:

  • How you feel when you have a vertigo attack.
  • How long an attack usually lasts.
  • Whether anything seems to trigger an attack, like changing your position.
  • Whether you have other symptoms along with vertigo, like hearing loss or nausea.

Your doctor may also do tests to confirm a diagnosis of Ménière's. These tests may include:

  • A Dix-Hallpike test camera.gif to find out if certain head movements trigger vertigo.
  • Hearing tests, including one to find out if the nerve from the inner ear to the brain is working as it should.
  • A test called an electronystagmogram (ENG), which measures your eye movements. This can help the doctor find where the problem is that's causing vertigo.
  • Imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan of the head. These tests can find out if the symptoms are caused by a brain problem.

How is it treated?

Ménière's disease can't be cured. But your doctor can prescribe treatment to help control your symptoms and reduce how often you have attacks.

Medicines

Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic medicine. Diuretics help rid your body of excess fluid, so they may help prevent the buildup of fluid in your inner ear. And that may mean you have fewer attacks.

Your doctor may also prescribe medicines to use when you have an attack, such as:

Other treatments

If symptoms are severe and don't respond to medicine, your doctor may suggest another treatment, such as surgery to reduce the fluid or pressure in the inner ear. The goal is to get rid of your symptoms while saving as much of your hearing as possible.

In rare cases of severe, lasting Ménière's disease, doctors may suggest a treatment to destroy the balance center in the inner ear (labyrinth), which can prevent vertigo. Options include:

  • Surgery to remove the labyrinth. This is called labyrinthectomy.
  • Chemical ablation. During this procedure, an antibiotic (usually gentamicin) is injected into the inner ear to destroy the labyrinth.

These treatments can cause permanent hearing loss, so they are usually done only as a last resort.

What can you do at home for Ménière's disease?

Ménière's can be hard to manage and tough to live with. But there are some things you can do that may help reduce the number of attacks you have:

  • Eat low-salt foods. Salt makes your body hold on to excess fluid. If you eat less salt, you may have less buildup of fluid in the ear. So you may get vertigo less often.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Try to reduce the stress in your life.

To reduce your symptoms when you have an attack:

  • Lie down and hold your head very still until the attack goes away.
  • Take your medicines for vertigo and nausea as soon as you can.

You can also take steps to help protect yourself when you have attacks:

  • Do exercises to improve your balance. This can reduce your risk of falling and hurting yourself or others.
  • Make changes to reduce your risk of injury during a vertigo attack. For example, install grab bars in your bathroom. Wear shoes with low heels and nonslip soles. And don't drive during an attack.
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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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