What is Ménière’s Disease?

Ménière’s disease causes dizziness and vertigo among other symptoms. A feeling of fullness and ringing in the ears, some hearing loss, and nausea are also symptoms of this problem along with overall weakness. The exact cause of this vestibular condition that affects the balance is still unknown, and medical experts believe that it is the result of several contributing factors. 

A probable cause is improper fluid drainage within the inner ear. This can result from a viral infection. A person who has not completely recovered from an ear infection or common cold may experience the symptoms of this disorder. It can last for days or weeks. It can also become permanently debilitating since intense spells of vertigo can reoccur and be unpredictable.

This condition is most common in people in their 40s and 50s, but it can affect anyone at any time.

Man holding ears and screaming in pain

How the Inner Ear Works

Improper fluid drainage can result from a blockage, genetic condition, or an anatomic abnormality of the inner ear that contains the bony labyrinth. A membranous labyrinth is located within the bony system, and it contains a fluid referred to as endolymph. It is the movement of this fluid that can cause dizziness at any time. The feeling is often constant regardless of the patient’s movements with Ménière’s disease

A person without the Ménière’s symptoms can become dizzy from spinning around in circles or looking up or down rapidly. This shakes up the fluid causing temporary vertigo and loss of balance. Benign Paroxysmal Positioning Vertigo (BPPV) can also result from these quick movements. But, this condition usually goes away within a day or two if not sooner. Like Ménière’s, it may result from a sinus infection or other similar condition.

The dizzy feeling in most people usually disappears as the fluid settles down to normal levels after an activity that shakes up the inner ear fluid. A person with Ménière’s symptoms feels vertigo and a loss of balance if the fluid does not settle correctly. That individual may feel weak and need a cane or other support device to walk safely. The condition discourages quick movements of any type.

The excessive build-up of fluid in the membrane labyrinth can also cause hearing loss. The loss of hearing may progress over time due to the condition.

Tinnitus is also common. This is the constant ringing or buzzing in the ear. It may be a high-pitched whine or an actual ringing sensation. This condition is common with sinus infections and upper respiratory allergies. It often disappears when the allergy is treated or the infection is cured.


There is no cure for Ménière’s condition, but there are several treatments. Antihistamines that can dry the sinuses and drugs that control nausea are often used. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections that may affect the inner ear. Anti-viral drugs may also be prescribed.

Patients may undergo hearing tests, a balance test, and even a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI). They can have complete vestibular and cranial nerve assessments.

Patients are advised to limit salt, alcohol, and caffeine intake. They are also given some therapeutic exercises. They may be advised to participate in aerobic exercises and other activities to improve balance.

Person walking on a log in the woods to improve balancePhysical Therapy for Vestibular Rehabilitation

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy for people diagnosed with Ménière’s can include balance stabilizing exercises. Exercises for gaze stabilization can be part of the therapy. The patient learns to concentrate on one object while the head moves. Other exercises that move the head are also recommended.

Other exercises are designed to improve balance in each patient. This includes walking and standing exercises. Part of the therapy is designed to build confidence in the patient who may feel very limited with movement due to the condition. 

Contact Cawley Physical Therapy Today

Cawley Physical Therapy in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties has worked with many patients who have Ménière’s disease and vertigo. 

Contact us at 570-208-2787 for more information on our therapy programs for people who experience vertigo and other symptoms.