If you’ve been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, it can be overwhelming to try and understand all the complex medical details associated with your condition. MRI scans are often used as part of a patient’s diagnostic evaluation, but what do they actually tell us? We’ll explain in detail the role of MRI scans in the diagnosis of Meniere’s disease and give some information about managing Meniere’s disease so that you can feel more confident navigating through this complicated journey.
What is Meniere’s disease?
Meniere’s disease is a vestibular disorder that affects the inner ear. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s believed to be linked to an abnormality of the fluid pressure in the inner ear. This may be due to factors such as an allergic response, an abnormal immune system response, a head injury, genetic risk, migraine or viral infections. There may be more than one factor at play.
Symptoms of Meniere’s disease
Experiencing symptoms of Meniere’s disease can be frightening and debilitating, but understanding the signs and being aware of the condition can help. Symptoms may vary between people, but often include sudden episodes of vertigo (spinning sensation) with extreme nausea and vomiting. This can be accompanied by tinnitus, sensitivity to sound and hearing loss, balance problems, and a full feeling or pressure in one ear. This can spread to both ears with time.
The attacks may last from minutes to 1-2 days, and the period between attacks can vary significantly. As the disease progresses, tinnitus becomes more of an issue during attacks. Hearing loss can become permanent, as can problems with balance.
Diagnostic tests to assess patients with Meniere’s, including MRI scans
For patients with Meniere’s disease, a variety of diagnostic tests may provide valuable insights into the extent and severity of their condition. This will typically start with hearing and balance tests and may also include blood tests. Because vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss can be symptoms of other conditions, MRI scans are often performed to exclude these conditions, particularly a benign tumour called a vestibular schwannoma (also called acoustic neuroma).
MRI scans are non-invasive and considered safe; they provide useful information about the structure of your inner ear and the hearing nerves on which these tumours can grow. In most cases, the MRI scan is normal, but this information can help your doctor make the diagnosis of Meniere’s disease.
Treatment options available for managing Meniere’s
There are many effective ways to manage Meniere’s disease and its symptoms. After diagnosis is complete, treatment options vary widely depending on the patient and their condition. Commonly prescribed treatments can range from simple lifestyle changes like reducing sodium intake or stress levels, to medications that control nausea and reduce inner ear pressure, to physical therapy techniques to improve balance (vestibular rehabilitation). Tinnitus management and hearing aids can also be helpful. In four out of five people these measures will be enough to control the symptoms, however if vertigo is still a problem, surgical options may be explored as well. With these treatment options available to patients with Meniere’s Disease they can take proactive steps in managing their health and quality of life.
How to find support and resources for people with Meniere’s
For those living with Meniere’s disease, understanding their condition and having access to helpful resources can make a world of difference. There are many avenues for finding support and information about the illness and its management. Patient support groups and online special interest websites are all available to answer your questions and connect you with others living with this chronic disorder. Support groups and organisations in the UK such as the Meniere’s Society can provide help and advice.
In conclusion, managing Meniere’s disease may seem daunting. Knowing the symptoms, working with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis, understanding the treatment options and learning how to manage daily tasks and activities with the disease will help give you a sense of control over your condition. Additionally, there are resources available that can help support anyone dealing with Meniere’s. It can be helpful to connect with peers or ask your doctor for a referral to discuss daily struggles with someone who understands your experience. If you are concerned about Meniere’s and the symptoms you are experiencing, book an MRI scan to exclude other causes for your symptoms. This can put you on the journey towards diagnosis and management. There is no cure yet for Meniere’s disease and each person’s journey is unique, but with proper management and care there is hope for living a full and meaningful life despite it.
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