“Meniérè’s disease is characterised by several classic symptoms, including dizziness, vertigo, sickness, tinnitus and deafness,” explained Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK. “Because of the unknown nature of the disease, Deafness Research UK has been using its innovative system of providing our scientists with a forum to discuss ideas in order to come up with a synthesis of the latest thinking to coincide with this year’s Meniérè’s Awareness Week from 9-15 October.”
Like any classic Marple mystery, the Deafness Research UK scientists have been faced with many characters, but the principal prime suspects are usually narrowed down to: head trauma, various viruses, auto-immune, hydrops and migraine. Deafness Research UK has interrogated them all and the final denouncement is ready. All have ‘form’ and ‘motive’, but who is guilty?
Head trauma can instantly be released as being innocent. While physical injury can indeed lead to Meniérè’s like symptoms, this would then be from a ‘known’ cause. Thus by definition, symptoms resulting from a known case cannot be Meniérè’s disease!
Viruses have been under the microscope for some time, including herpes (the cause of cold sores and shingles, etc.) and while it remains under suspicion, mainly due to anecdotal evidence
coming out of the US, (some doctors have had success treating Meniérè’s symptoms by using antiviral drugs), much more research is needed. The auto immune system has also been cited as a potential culprit too and while allergic reaction is possible, it is again an area still needing a great deal of research, so the jury remains out.
The prime suspects are ‘hydrops’ and migraine and with good reason as they have left many clues at the scene of the crime. Meniérè’s is defined by some as idiopathic endolymphic hydrops (IEH) which in layman’s terms simply means an excessive build up of endolymphic fluid in the cochlea (inner ear) whose cause is unknown. However, recent research suggests hydrops may have been framed for a crime it did not commit. It now appears that not all patients suffering from Meniere’s symptoms have hydrops and hydrops has also been found in people who have never had the symptoms. The logic of this suggests that hydrops may not be the key pathology in Meniere’s and there must be something more than just hydrops involved in the origin of Meniere’s disease. It would seem we are back to square one, but are we?
The final suspect is migraine. On the face of it migraine is a different condition but shares many lines of symmetry with Meniérè’s. Both are characterised by dizziness, tinnitus, deafness and sickness but more notably, some of the treatments prescribed for migraine have been shown to be equally effective against Meniérè’s. This has led some to speculate that Meniérè’s and migraine are two faces of the same condition. With 50% of people with Meniérè’s sharing the symptoms of migraine, have we found our answer? If we are to finally pull the mask off Meniere’s disease will we find Migraine is revealed as the ultimate mastermind staring back at us?
“While many of these hypothesis are interesting, current thinking suggests that rather than having a single cause, Meniérè’s may be the ultimate way the cochlea responds to a wide variety of injuries,” added Vivienne. “Thus paradoxically, all the above suspects are perhaps guilty – and no one is. What is clear is that much more research is required to unmask the menace behind the Meniérè’s mystery once and for all.”
While there may not be a ‘lone gunman’ in the continuing saga of the Meniérè’s mystery, there is clearly more work for the scientific sleuths at Deafness Research UK. To be continued….
For information on deafness and deafness-related conditions e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Deafness Research UK’s website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk
Notes to editors
Photo caption: Vivienne Michael, Chef Executive of Deafness Research UK
About Ménière’s disease and vestibular disorders
Ménière’s disease is a long term progressive condition affecting the balance and hearing parts of the inner ear, causing symptoms of vertigo (severe dizziness), fluctuating tinnitus, increasing hearing loss and a feeling of pressure in the ear for sufferers. The cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown and there is currently no known cure. Related conditions, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and labyrinthitis, cause similar debilitating symptoms of dizziness. Chronic dizziness is common and affects one in 10 working age adults and one in five older people. Dizziness can lead to reduced quality of life, anxiety and emotional distress, loss of fitness, unsteadiness and vulnerability to falling. See our resources at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk/
The Ménière’s Society
The Ménière’s Society was founded in 1984 and is the only UK registered charity (RCN: 297246) dedicated solely to providing support and information to those affected by Ménière’s disease and other vestibular (inner ear) disorders causing dizziness and balance problems, health professionals and the general public. The Society also funds vital research into all aspects of these debilitating conditions.
For more information about Ménière’s Awareness Week and the Annual Conference or for support and further information about dizziness and balance problems, call the Ménière’s Society on 0845 120 2975 or visit www.Meniérè’
About Deafness Research UK
• Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.
• The charity supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment including tinnitus.
• The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222
• For more information on research into deafness, tinnitus and other hearing conditions, log on to the website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk where you can access a wide range of information. Alternatively you can e-mail Deafness Research UK at email@example.com
• One in seven people in the UK – almost nine million people - suffer hearing loss.
• Deafness Research UK was founded in 1985 by Lord (Jack) and Lady Ashley of Stoke.
• In January 2008, Action for Tinnitus Research (ATR) was linked with Deafness Research UK under a uniting direction order under section 96(6) of the Charities Act 1993.
Jon Gardner, BeyondPR. www.beyondpr.co.uk Mobile 07930 697773. Direct line 0114 275 6996. e-mail: jon.gardner@
Ref: DRUK0304 – Meniere’s Awareness Week 2010
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