Health A to Z
Ménière's disease is a condition of the inner ear that causes sudden attacks of:
This page covers:
During an attack of Ménière's disease, you may:
These symptoms, which typically happen all at once, can last minutes or hours, but most commonly last two to three hours.
The condition usually starts in one ear, but can spread to both ears over time.
It can take a day or two for the symptoms to disappear completely. You may feel tired after an attack.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but an attack of hearing loss without vertigo is uncommon.
Attacks can occur in clusters or several times a week, or they may be separated by weeks, months or years.
Ménière's disease most commonly affects people aged 20-60. It's uncommon in children.
See your GP if you think you may have Ménière's disease. It can lead to permanent hearing loss if it's not treated.
There's no cure for Ménière's disease, but medication can help you control vertigo, nausea and vomiting.
The two medicines usually recommended by GPs are:
The aim is to get the medicine into the body as soon as possible at the first sign of any symptoms.
If these medicines work, your GP may give you a supply to keep for you to take quickly during an attack.
You may also need treatment for:
Distress is common in people with Ménière's disease, as it's difficult and unpredictable.
Your GP can offer advice and support if you're finding it difficult to cope with the effect Ménière's disease is having on your life.
You may be offered:
There are also a number of support groups, such as the Meniere's Society, that can provide assistance and advice.
Vertigo can cause you to lose balance. At the first sign of it:
Once the attack is over, try to move around to help your eyesight and other senses compensate for the problems in your inner ear.
You may be advised to have prochlorperazine as an injection instead of a tablet for quicker action to deal with severe symptoms.
In rare cases, you may need to be admitted to hospital to receive fluids through a vein to keep you hydrated.
Surgery may be an option to control vertigo in severe cases, but it's usually only considered if other treatments have failed.
There are very few clinical trials that have looked at the effectiveness of surgery for Ménière's disease, which is why it's rarely used.
Your GP may recommend a medication called betahistine to help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks of Ménière's disease.
Betahistine is thought to reduce the pressure of the fluid in your inner ear, relieving symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo.
There isn't much proof that changes to your diet can help.
But some people claim their symptoms improve by:
You can't predict your next attack, so you may need to change how you do things to avoid placing yourself or others in danger.
Consider the risks before doing activities like:
You may also need to make sure someone's with you most of the time in case you need help during an attack.
You shouldn't drive when you feel dizzy or if you feel an attack of vertigo coming on.
You must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you're prone to sudden attacks of vertigo without any warning signs.
It's likely that you won't be allowed to continue driving until you have control of your symptoms.
Most people with Meniere's disease have no difficulty with flying.
These tips can help take the stress out of flying, which may reduce the risk of an attack:
Your GP should refer you to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to confirm whether or not you have Ménière's disease.
The ENT specialist will check you have:
Your GP or specialist may also carry out a general physical examination and blood tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Ménière's disease can be confused with conditions with similar symptoms, such as:
The exact cause of Ménière's disease is unknown, but it's associated with a problem with pressure deep inside the ear.
Factors thought to increase your risk include:
It's likely that Ménière's disease is caused by a combination of factors.
Vertigo is the sensation that you or the environment around you is moving or spinning.
Tinnitus is the medical name for the perception of noise in one ear, both ears or in the head. The noise comes from inside the body rather than an outside source.