Ear, Nose and Throat | September 10, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Meniere's disease is a rare disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes of vertigo, tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss with a progressive, ultimately permanent loss of hearing, and a feeling of pressure deep inside the ear. Meniere's disease can occur at any age but the typical age of onset is between 40 to 60 years. It is considered a chronic condition and in most cases, Meniere's disease affects only one ear.
During a sudden acute attack, typically lasting around two to three hours, a patient may experience a few or all of the symptoms that are common to the disease. It can take a day or two for the symptoms to disappear completely following an acute episode. The symptoms and severity of Meniere’s can vary widely from person to person. Some people may experience frequent attacks of vertigo along with hearing loss, while others may have severe tinnitus with minor vertigo. Other symptoms include sensitivity to sound or distorted sound.
Episodes of Vertigo. Vertigo is a spinning sensation that makes a sufferer feel as though they are dizzy and/or unbalanced. Vertigo can start and stop spontaneously and occur without warning. These episodes typically last 20-30minutes but can last for several hours. Vertigo can cause nausea and vomiting, difficulty standing or walking and occasionally sufferers may have what is referred to a “drop attacks”, where they suddenly fall to the ground.
Tinnitus. This is ringing in the ear, giving the perception of a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling or hissing sound in your ear. The sound comes from inside the ear rather than from an outside source.
Hearing Loss. This may come and go, particularly early on in the disease. Eventually, most people have some permanent hearing loss. There is particular difficulty hearing deep or low sounds.
Feeling of Fullness. This sensation can feel like it is coming from the affected ear or on the whole side of the head.
During a severe attack, a patient may also experience sweating, diarrhoea and rapid or irregular heartbeats. After an episode, signs and symptoms improve and might disappear entirely. Episodes can occur weeks to years apart.
Meniere’s disease is often divided into early, middle and late stages. However, the progression of Meniere’s disease varies between individuals. A sufferer may not necessarily pass through each of the stages and the severity of the symptoms may vary greatly. In general, people experience more attacks during the first few years, and then as the attacks decrease in frequency over time, the hearing loss becomes progressively worse.
Early stage-The early stage of Meniere’s disease consists of sudden and unpredictable attacks of vertigo. These are usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
There may be some hearing loss during the attack, and tinnitus may also occur at the same time. The ear affected may feel blocked and uncomfortable, with a sense of fullness.
Some people experience sensitivity to sound at this stage also. Hearing and the full sensation in the ear usually returns to normal between attacks.
Middle stage-The middle stage of Meniere’s disease consists of continuing attacks of vertigo, with the attacks becoming less severe for some people. However, tinnitus and hearing loss often become worse. At this stage a person may experience some periods of remission which can last for up to several months. Some people may still experience symptoms of tinnitus, sensitivity to sound or loss of balance between attacks of vertigo.
Late stage-During the late stage of Meniere’s disease, the episodes of vertigo occur far less frequently. There may be months or even several years between attacks or they may stop altogether. However, a person may be left with balance problems, and may be unsteady on their feet, particularly in the dark.
The cause of Meniere's disease is not well understood. One particular theory that has not been proven is that Meniere's disease occurs due to an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear. This fluid is called endolymph and will often show up on scans amongst Meniere’s sufferers, but it is not clear that it causes Meniere’s disease. One thing that is known is that changes to the pressure of the endolymph fluid can result in symptoms of vertigo and tinnitus. Other factors that can affect the fluid include:
Other theories suggest that Meniere’s is caused by the constriction of blood vessels or that it may be an autoimmune condition. Because there isn’t one single cause that has been identified, it is likely that the disease is the result of many of the possible factors in combination or that perhaps the cause is varied for each individual.
There are many herbs and supplements that help with the possible causes of Meniere’s disease. Whilst these products may have not been directly researched for the Meniere’s disease, we know that certain natural therapies can help with the possible causes such as viral infection and auto immune disease.
Echinacea promotes the health of the immune system by boosting it and balancing it. It stimulates the lymphatic system, promoting drainage and elimination of toxins, and helps to prevent and fight potential infections. Echinacea helps the body to rid itself of microbial infections. It is effective against both bacterial and viral attacks. It can be used for any infection anywhere in the body and is especially useful for infections of the upper respiratory tract and conditions of the nose and sinuses.
Astragalus has a very long history as an immune system booster and disease fighter. It works on strengthening and stimulating the immune system. It has the ability to help the body fight off disease due to its antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Both herbs increase the number and activity of immune cells. Astragalus concentrates on building the immune system whereas echinacea boosts immune system activity and promotes fast recovery.
Astragalus is also an invaluable herb in the treatment of auto immune disease. It works by decreasing immune hypersensitivity. Further discussion on auto immune disease is discussed below.
Autoimmunity occurs when the immune response is directed against harmless self-antigens and the body begins attacking its own tissues and organs as a result. This results in inflammation, tissue damage, and loss of function of the affected organs and/or joints.
There is an increasing prevalence of auto immune disease occurring at present and research has moved towards natural treatment options to look for answers. It has already been established that there is a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients suffering from auto immune disease and studies suggest that vitamin D is invaluable in immune system modulation.
Vitamin D works directly on immune cells because there are vitamin D receptors located in the nuclei of all immune cells, including antigen-presenting cells, natural killer cells, and B and T lymphocytes.
There is a considerable amount of research showing that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with several autoimmune diseases.
This means that vitamin D deficiency can possibly lead to an auto immune disease and then in the case of existing auto immune disease, Vitamin D can be used for its immunomodulatory effect on the immune system to bring the overactive immune system to a balance and allow it to calm.
The earliest report of a link between allergies and Meniere’s disease was published in 1969. Since then there have been several studies analysing this relationship.
Cytokines which are chemical mediators of the immune system and other allergy markers such as IgE and lymphocytes have been looked at in Meniere’s patients. It has been found that 67% of Meniere’s patients have abnormal allergy markers and they also test positive for low levels of airborne allergens and hidden food triggers.
Taking supplements daily can help with the allergy response and help with inflammation that occurs with allergies and also with auto immune disease.
(up to10 grams/day) A natural anti-histamine that works to reduce the allergic response by inhibiting the release of histamine from the immune cells. It reduces inflammation and the sensitivity to allergens.
(up to150mg/day) supports healthy immune function. It is found in cells throughout the body and helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
A deficiency in this vital mineral can lead to reduced antibody production and compromised cellular function of the immune system. Therefore individuals are more vulnerable to allergies.
Omega 3 fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the components of essential fatty acids, are natural anti-inflammatories and reduce the cytokine response in allergies.
Echinacea, astragalus and vitamin D all play a role in helping with the allergy response and would be invaluable to help balance the allergy response.
Meniere's disease might be an autoimmune condition?
Viral Theory for Meniere’s Disease