What is Ménière’s disease?
Ménière’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance. It is caused by an increase fluid volume and pressure of the semicircular canals, leading to elevated pressure.Typically, this causes attacks of dizziness (or vertigo), creating a feeling of violent spinning or rotation, whirling and falling.
This is usually the most disabling and distressing symptom of Meniére’s Disease.Another symptom which often manifests from Meniére’s Disease is tinnitus. This ringing in the ears will not be noticed during the attacks but by the later stages may become constant.
Nausea, vomiting and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the affected ear are commonly experienced. Once the disease is established however, hearing loss may fail to recover fully after an attack. In the later stages of the disease, hearing loss is relatively constant and irreversible, and affects hearing in all ranges.
It is estimated at approximately 1 in every 1,000 people suffer from Meniere’s disease. The disease can develop at any age, but more commonly does so when the patient is aged between 40 and 60.
What are the causes?
The cause is unknown of Ménière’s disease. But there are several factors that have been linked to it:
- High salt intake in the diet (probably due to increased fluid retention)
- Stress and anxiety can lead to attack
- Some women have premenstrual attacks, which are associated with fluid retention.
- There is a direct link with migraine.
- Head injury severe enough to cause a concussion
- Glandular or hormonal imbalance including hypothyroidism
- High cholesterol levels
- Common factors such as chocolate, smoking, alcohol, dairy products and wheat.
What are the symptoms:
Symptoms vary from person-to-person. Symptoms can occur suddenly, and their frequency and duration differ.
- Vertigo – usually the most striking Meniere’s disease symptom, which includes:
- A feeling that you are spinning, even when you are stationary.
- Irregular heartbeats (palpitations)
- An episode of vertigo may last from a few minutes to a number of hours. As it is difficult to predict when a vertigo attack may occur.
Tinnitus – you sense noise or ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling or hissing in your ear, which is generated from inside your body. You will be more aware of it either during quiet times or when you are tired.
Hearing loss – hearing loss may fluctuate, especially early on in the course of the disease. The patient may also be especially sensitive to loud sounds. Eventually, most people experience some degree of long-term hearing loss.
How we view Ménière’s Disease in Chinese Medicine;
Chinese medicine usually views as a disorders of the liver, gallbladder, kidney, and spleen. These organs mentioned in these descriptions apply to the traditional organ systems and may not relate directly to the modern structural and functional connotations of the named organs.
Patterns according to Chinese Medicine:
1 Hyperactive liver and gallbladder fire. This manifests as sudden onset of tinnitus, usually continual sound, which may be accompanied by symptoms of the excess syndrome, such as headache, flushed face, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and constipation.
2 Phlegm-fire syndrome. This typically manifests as intermittent ringing in the ears, like the chirping of cicadas, sometimes accompanied by the sensation that the ears are blocked, thus impairing hearing.
3 Kidney yin xu. This is a gradually worsening tinnitus (though it may reach a certain constant level and get no worse after that) which is accompanied by deficiency type symptoms such as dizziness, back ache, and weakness of the knees, sometimes accompanied by hot sensation of the palms/soles and facial flushing.
4 Qi deficiency.This manifests as intermittently occurring tinnitus that is alleviated by rest and aggravated by stress. Other possible symptoms of the deficiency include tiredness.
Ways to manage your symptoms and help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks associated with Meniere’s disease.Here are some suggestions:
- Recognise the warning signs of an attack – sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy.
- Rest during and after attacks, before returning to regular activities.
- Avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse, including sudden movement, bright lights, watching television or reading.
- Beware of losing your balance – good lighting, an even walking surface.
- Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery – if you experience frequent episodes of vertigo, as this could lead to an accident and injury.
- Eat regular meals – an even intake of food and drink throughout the day can help regulate your body fluids.
- Reduce your salt (sodium) intake – eating too much salt increases the fluid in your inner ear and makes your symptoms worse.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol – excessive amounts of caffeine (in tea, coffee, chocolate and cola drinks) or alcohol can constrict your blood vessels and make your symptoms worse.
- Quit smoking – avoiding nicotine may lessen the severity of your symptoms.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are extremely successful in the treatment of symptoms associated with Meniere’s disease.
Make an appointment today at
Turning Point Acupuncture
22 Stewart Road