Screening & Diagnosis:
What causes the fluid build up?
No one knows for certain why these fluid abnormalities occur. It is thought that sodium intake in the diet plays a role. Some individuals have recommended that by minimizing salt intake that the attacks of Meniere's disease can be made less severe and less frequent. Most Americans consume considerably more than the recommended three grams of sodium per day that the American Heart Association recommends as a safe quantity. Other factors seem to influence the disease as well. Meniere's disease can run in families, and attacks occur more frequently in individuals with a family history of the disease. Stress can play a role in creating a situation where attacks occur more frequently.
What is the course of this disease?
Some patients have very few attacks and seem to heal quickly, while the disease can incapacitate others. Most of the individuals with this disease will have long periods when they are symptom free or have minimal attacks. Approximately one-third of the individuals will have more frequent attacks and may experience symptoms over a number of years. The disease can continue for an unpredictable period of time but will finally "burnout." The process of burning out means that the symptoms of vertigo will tend to occur less frequently and in some individuals this process is associated with a higher level of unpredictability. Attacks are usually associated with an aura that the attack is coming. This warning feeling tends to disappear when the disease burns out. At the same time, hearing will have a tendency to become worse, ultimately ending in deafness in the affected ear. In individuals who have a more debilitating course, they may be unable to drive an automobile or work. Individuals where balance is critical to their safety at work should not be doing this type of work when they have this disorder.