What is Meniere’s disease?
Meniere’s disease, also known as idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, is a disorder of the inner ear that affects balance and hearing. It is characterized by episodes of vertigo (dizziness), hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and a feeling of fullness in the ear. It is believed to be caused by a problem with the pressure deep inside the ear; however, this has not yet been proven. It was first described by a French physician, Dr. Prosper Meniere, in 1861.
Meniere’s disease can occur at any age, but it most commonly affects people aged 40-60 years. Sometimes, there may be a family history of the disease. The condition affects people differently; its intensity can range from being a mild annoyance to a chronic, lifelong disability.
What causes Meniere’s disease?
The cause of Meniere’s disease is not yet known. It is thought to be caused by an increase in the pressure of the fluid contained in the tiny labyrinth, a part of the inner ear. Our inner ear contains a fluid that helps us to maintain our balance and equilibrium. Within the cochlea there are two types of fluid separated by membranes: endolymph (rich in potassium) and perilymph (rich in sodium). In Meniere’s disease there is too much endolymph fluid in the inner ear. The excess of endolymph can disturbs the structure and function of the inner ear which result in symptoms such as vertigo and tinnitus.
In most cases, the cause of the fluid pressure change is unknown, but there are a number of possible risk factors, including:
- Genetic (inherited) factors
- Allergic responses
- Auto-immune reactions
- Autonomic nervous system imbalances
- Vascular (circulation) irregularities
- Blockages and/or damage to the endolymphatic structures, causing improper fluid drainage
- Dietary imbalance
- Viral infections such as meningitis
What are the symptoms of Meniere’s disease?
The excess fluid disturbs the inner ear’s balance and hearing mechanisms and produces a range of symptoms. Typical symptoms of Meniere’s disease include:
- Episodic vertigo – an intense sense of spinning that can range from mild to severe, and a feeling of the room ‘spinning round’ is often described. The attacks are rotational and the duration of each episode is usually more than 20 minutes.
- Increasing deafness – hearing loss that becomes worse during attacks. Hearing may fail to recover fully and deteriorate over time, often leading to permanent hearing disability or total hearing loss. Usually only one ear is affected, however the longer the condition lasts the higher the chance the other ear will also become affected
- Tinnitus – ringing or roaring noise in the ears (typically a low tone). The symptom is usually more noticeable when you are tired or when it is quiet.
These symptoms are distressing and can make life very miserable for those affected. They may not occur all at once. As Meniere’s disease progresses, the mix, severity and duration of symptoms tends to change. Attacks tend to occur in clusters with periods of remission. They may occur every week or even every few days. They usually last a few hours and are often associated with other symptoms such as sweating, weakness, faintness, nausea, vomiting, and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the affected ear.
What are the treatment options for Meniere’s disease?
In the perspective of Western medicine, there is no cure for Meniere’s disease. To date, no scientifically verified cause of this disease has been found, and there is no satisfactory treatment option for this disease. Current treatments aim to control and relieve the symptoms of the disease, in order to enable patients to continue to perform routine activities of daily living and maintain a reasonable quality of life. Such treatments include:
- Medications – medication such as prochlorperazine or antihistamines relieve vertigo attack, while diuretics reduce fluid in the inner ear, which reduce pressure to the ear. Such medications may help relieve the symptoms of Meniere disease.
- Dietary advice – for example, avoiding nicotine and caffeine, as well as having a low salt diet, can reduce vertigo attacks.
- Treatment for other symptoms – treatments, such as sound therapy to reduce the difference between the tinnitus sounds and the background sounds, rehabilitative exercises to help improve balance and coordination, relaxation techniques to avoid stress and anxiety and hearing aids to treat deafness, may help relieve some of the symptoms associated with Meniere’s disease.
- Surgery – surgical procedures such as endolymphatic sac decompression, the insertion of ventilation tubes, labyrinthectomy and vestibular neurectomy, may be undertaken on Meniere’s disease patients who experience severe, unremitting episodes of vertigo that cannot be controlled with a combination of life style measures and medications.
What is the TCM perspective of Meniere’s disease?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Meniere’s disease is classified as “xuan yun” or vertigo, a type of dizziness. Various important lifestyle factors such as emotional stress, overwork and improper diet can lead to health disorders, and contribute to the development of chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease.
From the perspective of TCM, Meniere’s disease is attributed to spleen and kidney Yang deficiency, causing phlegm and dampness obstruction. This causes the vertigo, along with symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Liver and kidney Yin deficiency also causes liver wind to ascend or liver yang hyperactivity, and as a result causes vertigo, dizziness, headache, blurred vision and tinnitus.
How can TCM help treat Meniere’s disease?
Acupuncture and Chinese can help to relieve the symptoms of Meniere’s disease and may also help to improve or resolve the condition. Treatment can help to relieve the vertigo, tinnitus, feeling of fullness or pressure in the head, and to reduce the frequency of bouts of symptoms. Many sufferers have a psychological burden and are afraid of the next sudden attack. With the help of TCM treatment, such patients are able to become free from most of the anxiety associated with this disease.
Due to the chronic nature of this condition, treatment for Meniere’s disease may be slow, and it may take time to achieve lasting results.
Dr. Xing has been researching TCM treatment against Meniere’s disease for many years, and has gathered much experience in treating this condition using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
The advantages of his treatment include:
- Effective relief of vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and other symptoms.
- Stabilization and promotion of a better cooperation between the circulatory system, nervous system and immune system, in order to prevent reoccurrences of Meniere’s disease.
- Specific treatments tailored to the nature of the individual’s condition, his/her bodily constitution, and medical history.
- Use of all natural herbs, free of chemical additives, GM ingredients and preservatives.
Helped at the centre:
TCM is recognised by many as being highly effective in helping treat Meniere’s disease. At our clinic, Dr. Xing has helped numerous patients who had been suffering from this condition regain good health.
One patient was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease 20 years ago, and had been suffering from its symptoms, most notably dizziness, ever since. The condition had become so severe that he had become deaf. The patient decided to visit Evergreen Chinese Medical Centre one day, where Dr. Xing treated him with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. After 8 weeks of treatment, his symptoms of dizziness had completely disappeared, and the results of an examination done by his GP indicated that he had returned to being 100% fit.