What Is The Meniere's Disease?

Invisible illnesses such as Meniere's Disease have common symptoms and are commonly misunderstood by those not affected by them.

Many chronic illnesses have deformities or other symptoms that are easily observed by others. Other chronic illnesses have few, if any, outward signs. Three of those "invisible" illnesses are Meniere's Disease, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

These three separate and distinct diseases share many of the same symptoms. They are all often misdiagnosed and are little understood by those who are not personally affected. Their diagnosis is more a process of elimination rather than one or two definitive tests. The symptoms in common include dizziness, fatigue, depression, cognitive disturbances, interrupted sleep patterns, headaches or other forms of pain.

Prosper Meneire of France called it Episodic Cochleo-Vestibulopathy when he first diagnosed Meniere's Disease in 1861. It is thought that many famous historical persons have suffered from this disease including Martin Luther, Alan Shepherd, and Vincent Van Gogh, who sliced off his own ear in an attempt to end the maddening tinnitus that is a major symptom. A common alternative name is Endolymphatic Hydrops.

Meniere's Disease most frequently affects men and women equally and is often diagnosed between the ages of 30 to 50, although there have been documented cases where the patient was as young as 10. Meniere's Disease can affect one ear (unilateral) or both (bilateral).

The three major symptoms of Meniere's Disease are tinnitus (ringing or other noises in the ears), hearing loss and vertigo. Vertigo is the sensation that the person is spinning and the room is staying still. Other common symptoms can include imbalance, sometimes slurred or incoherent speech, panic attacks, generalized fear in social situations, nystagmus (which is the twitching of the eyes in a subjective manner). The list continues with Tumarkin Episodes (also known as "drop attacks"-where the person drops to the ground and may lose consciousness), seeing small moving objects that do not actually exist and tingling or twitching or pain in the affected ear(s).

Cognitive and memory disturbances, commonly known as "brain fog", affects short-term memory and other facets of cognitive functioning including the ability to form complete sentences while speaking, thinking in a linear fashion and being able to foresee consequences of one's actions or lack of action. These make performing day-to-day and work requirements a matter of concern to the patient, as they might not be aware of a problem until it has occurred. Many patients with Meniere's Disease are unable to work due to the severity of their symptoms.

The intensity and duration of the symptoms vary from person to person. Medication such as diuretics to deplete the amount of fluid in the inner ears and benzodiazapines such as Valium and Klonopin are given to sedate the vestibular nerve. Antivert and Dramamine are often prescribed. There are various surgical options such as Vestibular Nerve Severance and Endolymphatic Sac Decompression with Shunt Placement. These surgeries have varying effects and new options such as injecting antibiotics directly in to the inner ear are now being used, also with varying degrees of success.

Fibromyalgia has also been called fibrositis, psychogenic rheumatism, and muscular fatigue syndrome, and is a muscle and connective tissue disorder characterized by pain, stiffness and easy fatigability as well as the common symptoms listed earlier. The cause remains unknown. There are approximately 3 million sufferers in the US alone. Caucasian females between the ages of 30 to 50 are the most likely to suffer from this. There is a much lower incidence in males and in non-Caucasians.

Determining the number of tender points the patient has is a major factor in making this diagnosis. These points are usually located at the joints and there are 18 possible tender points. A positive finding in 11 of them are needed to make a diagnosis. Additional symptoms can include malaise, irritable bowel problems, frequent bowel or bladder pain, as well as cognitive and memory disturbances.

Treatment is geared toward reducing pain and stiffness as well as improving the quality of sleep. Antidepressants, over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers are often used to combat the symptoms. The severity of these symptoms varies from patient to patient, as does the success of the treatment.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, is an illness without an known cause. This is characterized by unexplained fatigue of sudden onset, weakness, muscle pain, lymph node edema and general malaise. Other symptoms can include pelvic and abdominal pain, depression, memory disturbances and most of the same symptoms of Meniere's Disease and Fibromyalgia.

Treatment is geared toward relieving pain and sleep disturbances and is nearly identical with that of Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia, CFS and Meniere's Disease are only a few of the "invisible" illness. Others are tinnitus, sinusitis, seizures, immune disorders, hearing impairment, sign impairment, hypertension, hypotension, cardiac disorders, closed head trauma, kidney disease, diabetes and the list is nearly endless. Early stages of other diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson's Disease also qualifies as "invisible" illnesses.

It is vital to remember that although a person's illness may not be readily apparent, it is just as real and just as severe as a more easily seen one and that person should be awarded the same respect and consideration as any other person with a chronic illness. It does not matter if the illness is visible or invisible.

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