Vertigo is often a symptom of Meniere’s Disease, which occurs when the fluids of the inner ear are under increased pressure. Elevated pressure and abnormal mixing of inner ear fluids prevents the proper transmission of signals regulating balance that are transmitted between the inner ear and the brain.
Scientists are exploring the causes for the increased inner ear pressure, which may include viral infections and environmental factors.
Patients afflicted with Meniere’s Disease suffer from attacks of vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss, as well as ear pressure and discomfort that can last for several hours. The attacks occur in cycles and may happen more commonly in the fall and spring seasons, or when the person is under a high level of stress. In the most severe cases, attacks of accompanying vertigo are extremely disorienting. They can occur with little warning and can cause nausea and vomiting.
Meniere’s Disease is diagnosed primarily by reviewing the patient’s medical history and conducting an examination in the office. The physician may also order a hearing test, MRI, electronystagmography (ENG) and/or electrocochleography to help with their evaluation.
There is presently no known cure for Meniere’s Disease. Dr. Sperling and his team at NYOG focus on alleviating the symptoms of the disease, with treatment tailored to each individual case. Nearly all cases can be greatly improved with treatment.
Mild Meniere’s Disease can often be managed with dietary changes that reduce the body’s retention of fluid, such as limiting salt, caffeine, and alcohol. Limiting stress and quitting cigarettes and other tobacco products also help reduce symptoms. A diuretic medicine to reduce excess body fluids may also be considered.
If symptoms are severe, surgical therapies may be recommended. One procedure is an intratympanic injection of gentamicin, a highly effective treatment involving direct placement of medication into the ear. Another surgical treatment is an endolymphatic sac decompression, which calls for a small silicone tube or shunt to be surgically inserted in the inner ear to regulate the volume of fluid. For patients who suffer from chronic and debilitating vertigo, Dr. Sperling may perform a labyrinthectomy, the removal of semicircular canals.