Meniere’s disease is an illness that attacks the inner ear, causing dizzy spells under many circumstances. It can happen any time, anywhere. It is a problem experienced by two to five million Americans.
A favorite game for children is to spin round and round until they get dizzy. Together with other kids, the dizziness that they experience is pleasurable. But for adults the experience of undergoing dizzy spells is unwanted. It can happen while cleaning house, conducting a business meeting, shopping, entertaining friends, or driving. Those that experience the problem feel as if they are on a merry-go-round. They get disoriented, with a sense of unreality. The problem is known as Meniere’s disease. It is an illness that attacks the inner ear.
The problem occurs mysteriously. According to Ronald Amedee, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Tulane University in New Orleans, the problem strikes out of nowhere in totally healthy people, most of whom are between 35 and 55 years old. The attack usually hits one ear; then you experience an overwhelming dizziness, and possibly a loss of hearing in that ear, perhaps tinnitus which is a constant ringing in the ear. The dizziness can last anywhere from a few minutes to as long as 24 hours. It can either be mild or severe. At the initial stages of the problem, you can experience three or four attacks per month, or sometimes, more frequently.
Meniere’s disease may eventually burn itself out after years of misery. Meanwhile, there may be a possibility that your hearing in the affected ear can be partially or totally lost. This happens for the reason that there is an intricate link between hearing and balance. According to Dr. Amedee, the inner ear is two organs in one. It holds the cochlea, the hearing organ, and the labyrinth, the balance organ. The balance organ is disrupted, as a result of which, the hearing organ is destroyed, in the absence of any treatment.
Treatment: In spite of the mysterious nature of the problem, doctors have come up with successful treatments, such as motion sickness drugs (antihistamines), allowing the balance organ the needed rest. The usual motion sickness drug is meclizine (Antivert). Your doctor may prescribe diuretic drugs, such as the kind that are prescribed for blood pressure, in order to allay the pressure that is caused by fluids in the inner ear. However, the drugs have side effects. They can make you drowsy, cause bladder problems in men, weakness, or rarely, impotence.
The drugs prescribed may not cure the problem, but the attacks become less frequent and less severe, and most importantly, help preserve your hearing. The success rate if 75 to 80 percent.
Meniere’s disease cannot be permanently prevented and should be handled by your doctor. People do quite well with conservative therapy, helping them to work normally, drive, and stay physically active.