Ménière's disease

Ménière's disease is a condition of the inner ear that causes sudden attacks of:

Symptoms of Ménière's disease

During an attack of Ménière's disease, you may:

These symptoms typically happen all at once and can last minutes or hours, but most commonly last 2 to 3 hours.

The condition usually starts in 1 ear, but can spread to both ears over time.

It can take a day or 2 for the symptoms to disappear completely. You may feel tired after an attack.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but an attack of hearing loss without vertigo is uncommon.

Attacks can happen in clusters, or several times a week, or they may be separated by weeks, months or years.

Ménière's disease most commonly affects people aged 20 to 60. It's uncommon in children.

See a GP if you have symptoms of Ménière's disease, such as persistent vertigo or hearing loss.

If your GP thinks you have Ménière's disease, they can offer treatment to help with the symptoms of vertigo and advice about living with the condition.

Treatment for Ménière's disease

There's no cure for Ménière's disease, but medicine can help control vertigo, nausea and vomiting.

The 2 medicines usually recommended by GPs are:

The aim is to get the medicine into your body as soon as possible, at the first sign of symptoms.

You may also need treatment for:

Distress is common in people with Ménière's disease, as it's a difficult and unpredictable condition.

A GP can offer advice and support if you're finding it difficult to cope with the effect Ménière's disease is having on your life.

You may be offered:

There are also support groups and organisations, such as the Ménière's Society, that can provide help and advice.

What to do during an attack of Ménière's disease

Ménière's disease can cause you to lose balance.

At the first sign of an attack you should:

Once the attack is over, try to move around to help your eyesight and other senses compensate for the problems in your inner ear.

Treating severe attacks

You may be advised to have injections of prochlorperazine, instead of taking it as a tablet for quicker action to deal with severe symptoms.

In rare cases, you may need to be admitted to hospital to receive fluids through a vein to keep you hydrated.

Surgery

Surgery may be an option to control vertigo in severe cases, but it's usually only considered if other treatments have failed.

There are very few clinical trials that have looked at the effectiveness of surgery for Ménière's disease, which is why it's rarely used.

Prevention

Medicines

A GP may recommend a medicine called betahistine to help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks of Ménière's disease.

Betahistine is thought to reduce the pressure of the fluid in your inner ear, relieving symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo.

Foods to avoid

There's not much proof that changes to your diet can help.

But some people claim their symptoms improve by:

Driving and other risks

Driving

Because you cannot predict when your next attack might happen, you may need to change how you do things to avoid putting yourself or others in danger.

Consider the risks before doing activities such as:

You may also need to make sure someone's with you most of the time in case you need help during an attack.

You should not drive when you feel dizzy or if you feel an attack of vertigo coming on.

You must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you're prone to sudden attacks of vertigo without any warning signs.

It's likely that you will not be allowed to continue driving until you have control of your symptoms.

Flying

Most people with Ménière's disease have no difficulty with flying.

These tips may help any anxiety you feel about flying, which may reduce the risk of an attack:

Diagnosis

A GP should refer you to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to confirm whether or not you have Ménière's disease.

The ENT specialist will check if you have:

A GP or specialist may also do a general physical examination and blood tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Ménière's disease can be confused with conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as:

Causes of Ménière's disease

The exact cause of Ménière's disease is unknown, but it's associated with a problem with pressure deep inside the ear.

Factors that are thought to increase your risk include:

It's likely that Ménière's disease is caused by a combination of factors.

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2020
Next review due: 23 March 2023