Some people may think that they are just clumsy if they briefly lose their balance or feel as if the world is moving while they are standing still. In fact, these people may have a disorder called Ménière’s disease, a serious, episodic, progressively debilitating inner ear condition.
People with this disorder generally exhibit all four of the following symptoms in one ear: a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), fluctuating hearing loss or the sensation that the world is spinning (vertigo).
The cause of Ménière’s disease is unclear. Initially, symptoms are episodic, usually occur in only one ear and last just a few minutes, followed by long, symptom-free periods. Early in the disorder, hearing loss may be temporary, but gradually the loss becomes permanent, and periods of vertigo lengthen. Vertigo, contrary to popular usage, is neither dizziness, lightheadedness nor fear of heights but a sensation that the world is spinning while the individual is standing still. In Ménière’s disease, vertigo is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and abnormal eye movements. Even when active symptoms subside, many individuals feel unsteady and exhibit some degree of impaired balance.
There is no cure for Ménière’s disease; however, sometimes people with the disorder are referred to a physical therapist for vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT). VRT teaches individualized exercises to help the brain compensate for the disordered signals it receives from the inner ear. We work with patients to prevent falls, control rapid head movements and improve balance deficits left by acute attacks of symptoms.
Several other inner ear disorders can cause temporary dizziness, discomfort or poor balance. If you experience moments of unsteadiness and feel as if the world is rotating while you are standing still, contact your physician. Then call us. Although Ménière’s disease is not curable, we can design a program that can help make you feel safer, more comfortable and more in control.