Meniere's Disease

Ménière's disease is a balance disorder caused by an abnormality in a section of the inner ear called the labyrinth. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), an estimated 615,000 people in the United States are afflicted with the disease, with 45,500 new cases diagnosed each year.

The labyrinth has two parts:
  • Bony labyrinth is the rigid, bony outer wall of the inner ear that consists of cavities (vestibule, semicircular canals and cochlea) hollowed out of the substance of the bone and lined by periosteum. These cavities contain a clear fluid, called the perilymph, in which the membranous labyrinth is situated.
  • Membranous labyrinth is encased in bone and contains a fluid called endolymph. When the head moves, the endolymph also moves, causing nerve receptors in the membranous labyrinth to signal the brain about the body's motion.


When the endolymph increases, the membranous labyrinth balloons or dilates (endolymphatic hydrops). If the membranous labyrinth ruptures, the endolymph mixes with the perilymph and causes the symptoms of Ménière's disease.

Symptoms of Ménière's Disease
The symptoms of Ménière's disease may present differently in each individual and can occur suddenly, daily or infrequently. The following are the common symptoms of the disease:

  • Vertigo (most common symptom) often accompanied by severe nausea, vomiting and sweating
  • Tinnitus
  • Loss of hearing
  • Pressure in the affected ear
  • Loss of balance
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhea


The symptoms of Ménière's disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems so it is very important to always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis for Ménière's Disease
Your physician will evaluate your complete medical history, conduct a physical examination and may request additional tests, such as the following, to diagnose Ménière's disease:

  • Hearing test
  • Balance test
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine if a tumor is present
  • Electrocochleography to measure electrical activity of the inner ear


Treatment of Ménière's Disease
There are several treatment options for Ménière's disease, including:
  • Surgery is often effective for treating balance problems of Ménière's disease. The most common surgical treatment is the insertion of a shunt (silicone tube) to drain excess fluid.
  • Medications may be given to control allergies, reduce fluid retention or improve blood circulation in the inner ear.
  • Changes in diet, such as eliminating caffeine, alcohol and salt may reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms.
  • Behavior therapies to reduce stress may lessen the severity of the disease symptoms.

Specific treatment for Ménière's disease will be determined by your physician based on your individual needs and the following conditions:

  • Age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing Ménière's disease at the following convenient locations.