Ménière's Disease: Care Instructions

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Ménière's (say "men-YEERS") disease is a problem of the inner ear that affects hearing and balance. It causes sudden attacks of vertigo that make you feel like you are spinning. It can also cause a loud ringing in the ears called tinnitus, a temporary loss of hearing, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Your hearing loss may not get better.

The cause of Ménière's disease is not known, but it may be related to a fluid imbalance in the inner ear. The goal of treatment is to make the vertigo less severe and happen less often. Some people can prevent attacks by eating a diet low in sodium and by taking steps to decrease their stress. Medicines may also help. Surgery is an option for some people.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • During an attack of vertigo, lie down and hold your head very still until the feeling passes. This may help you cope with vertigo.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and stress, along with any other substances or conditions that trigger an attack.
  • Eat a diet low in sodium to reduce fluid buildup in the inner ear.
  • Make sure your home is safe for those times when you have an attack of vertigo.
    • Get rid of throw rugs, and use nonskid mats.
    • Use grab bars near the bathtub and toilet.
    • Use night-lights.
    • Keep floors dry to prevent slipping.
    • Store items you use often on low shelves so you don't have to climb or reach high. If you have to climb, use a step stool with handrails.
    • Keep driveways, sidewalks, and other walkways clear of things that might cause you to trip.
  • There are other steps you can take to stay safe.
    • Avoid driving or working at heights.
    • Wear shoes with low heels and nonslip soles.
    • Keep your shoes tied.
    • Alert family and friends to your condition.
    • Know whether medicines you take can affect your sense of balance.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have sudden dizziness that is different from past attacks.
  • You have dizziness along with symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse dizziness.
  • You notice changes in your hearing.
  • You feel dizzy and have a fever, a headache, or ringing in your ears.
  • You have new or increased nausea and vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have new or worse nausea or vomiting.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.