Imagine spinning around in your desk chair while you try to complete your workday. Combine this dizziness with ringing a bell at the side of your head, and then stick cotton balls in your ears so all sounds are muffled and you'll have some idea of a day in the life of a person with Meniere's disease.
Meniere's disease is a disturbance of the balance mechanism within the inner ear. In most, it affects only one ear. The symptoms include episodes of vertigo, ear ringing, and ear fullness. Meniere's has no known cause, and the progression usually results in hearing loss. It is not contagious or fatal but has no known cure.
In America, Meniere's affects approximately 1 million people and their families. Each year, 45,500 people are diagnosed with Meniere's, according to the National Institute of Health. The most common age of those diagnosed is between 40 and 49. Slightly more women than men are affected, and children can be diagnosed with Meniere's as well, although this is usually less common.
Individuals with Meniere's experience "episodes." These attacks affect each person differently and can last from one minute to days at a time. Not every episode will include all symptoms and there may be uncertainty as to when one will begin or how long it will last. People can usually learn to recognize the early warning signs that an attack is coming. Often there is an increase in tinnitus or ear fullness preceding an episode.
After an attack, persons with Meniere's can be left with "brain fog." This is a term used to describe the forgetfulness, disorientation, and feelings of confusion or sensory overload that appear after an attack is over.