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Was your Meniere's a misdiagnosis?

Meniere's disease can be devastating to its victims.

The symptoms of an acute attack can strike without warning, causing severe vertigo, nausea, vomiting, a high-pitched ringing in your ears and sudden deafness that can last for some time. The attacks can absolutely ruin victims' ability to work and wreck their lives in general.

Sufferers frequently have to endure intensive dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes to try to control the disease. There are a few medications that can sometimes help the condition or be used to manage symptoms. If those don't work and attacks continue, patients may be referred for surgical procedures that can stop the attacks. However, the surgeries can destroy a patient's hearing and balance as a matter of necessity.

More unfortunate still, Meniere's disease is often the wrong diagnosis.

Meniere's disease is actually fairly rare and hard to diagnose. There are also other conditions that mimic the symptoms of Meniere's. Because many of those conditions are more common than Meniere's, they should be ruled out before any destructive surgeries are ever considered.

For example, some of the more common conditions that mimic Meniere's include:

  • Inner ear infections (particularly if you haven't had attacks very long)
  • A disturbance of the cilia, the tiny hairs in the inner ear
  • A type of migraine known as vestibular migraines (the most common culprit)

All of these conditions can -- and should -- be treated with noninvasive procedures and medication.

A conservative approach should always be taken when someone is facing the potential of destructive surgery. Since it's difficult to definitively diagnose Meniere's in the early stages (before deafness is permanent), doctors can look for another diagnosis or even try noninvasive treatments that would be harmless if they fail, like vestibular rehabilitation, antibiotics and migraine medication.

When a doctor rushes a diagnosis, a migraine patient may end up suffering permanent damage to his or her hearing and balance after a useless surgery that does nothing to improve his or her condition.

If conservative treatment isn't helping your Meniere's disease and you haven't been evaluated for vestibular migraines or other possible conditions, don't submit to invasive surgical procedures until you have seen someone who is willing to consider other possibilities.

Source: LinkedIn, "Meniere's Disease -- A Common Misdiagnosis," Scott Sanders, accessed May 18, 2018

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