Sunday, November 6, 2011

Name That Disease #15

Can you name the disease that can cause this form of hearing loss?

Image is from Wikimedia Commons and is copyright-free.

That is an audiogram of someone with Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear caused by the swelling of part of one of the canals called the endolymphatic sac. It is also known as "hydrops." The two main possible symptoms of the disease are severe vertigo and hearing loss. Some of the things that are believed to possibly cause Ménière’s include allergies, smoking, stress, fatigue, recent viral activity, respiratory infection, ear infections, head injury, and even syphilis. Genetics also are believed to play a roll in some cases.However, the exact cause is not known.

Attacks of vertigo can be either quite common or quite infrequent, and can range greatly in their severity and length. Vertigo can also happen in combination with extreme nausea with or without vomiting, and sweating. Sudden movement will only cause the symptoms to get worse and lying down can improve symptoms.

Hearing loss, when it does occur, usually only affects one ear and loss of the lower frequencies will occur first. The image above shows how such hearing loss is diagnosed. Hearing can often recover, though over time it will steadily get worse. Pressure and tinnitus (buzzing, ringing, or roaring in the ear) are also commonly seen. Additional symptoms can potentially happen, including pain in the abdomen, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and eye movements that are uncontrollable.

There are several tests that can be done to figure out if the symptoms are caused by Ménière’s or some other condition. Treatments can help with the symptoms, but there is no known cure for the disease. There is also no known way to prevent the disease from occurring. some treatments include attempts to decrease the amount of fluid in the inner ear, maintaining a healthy lifestyle to decrease stress, and surgery may be performed in very severe cases. There are also recommendations relating to how to stay safe during and after a vertigo attack, including avoiding driving and getting help when walking.

My father and brother have actually both had Ménière’s-related vertigo attacks in the past. The attacks are quite violent, with the vertigo being so bad that any movement causes instant nausea. When the attacks occur, they basically have to lie still until the vertigo passes. Luckily, they are not a very common even, often with years between attacks. We believe that in our family it is a genetically inherited trait. It is possible that I may have a very mild form, as I do have tinnitus and mild vertigo when I become fatigued.

If you experience the symptoms of Ménière’s, especially if they are severe, you should see your doctor as soon as you can. It is often fairly manageable, but in severe cases treatment will be needed to help the affected individual live a full life.

Source is PubMed Health from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Another useful resource is the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

No comments:

Post a Comment