Meniere's Disease: Why Brain Blood Flow Matters

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Meniere's disease stems from a problem within the inner ear that results in a person’s hearing loss and imbalance. It also causes vertigo and often hurts one ear at any time. Over time, it can also affect the other ear, which is the case for up to half of the people with Meniere’s disease. It is common among individuals aged 40 to 60 years old. Close to 5 million Americans have Meniere’s disease.

What Causes Meniere’s Disease?

Many studies tried to explain the root of Meniere’s disease. One popular theory is that it has something to do with the excess buildup of fluid in the inner ear. Researchers are uncertain why some people are susceptible to fluid accumulation. It could be due to the body's inability to drain the fluid properly, or the body produces too much of the fluid. 

The fluid buildup in the ear creates increased pressure within the ear, a part that controls the body's balance. Many patients with Meniere’s disease have excess fluid in their ear, but not all can have this. Therefore, there must be other factors involved with Meniere’s. 

You have a higher chance of getting Meniere’s if you have any of the following factors:

  • Head or neck injuries or trauma
  • Auto-immune diseases – such as lupus, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Genetics – you have a family member who has Meniere’s disease
  • Viral infections of the inner ear
  • Allergies

What are the Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease?

There are four main symptoms that will help your doctor to make a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease. These symptoms are:

  1. Vertigo
  2. Tinnitus
  3. Full in the ear
  4. Hearing loss

Let’s examine each symptom to see how they help to identify this syndrome.

#1 Meniere’s Disease Vertigo

Meniere’s disease vertigo differs from this symptom as caused by other conditions. First of all, it is usually quite severe. In fact, it can lead to falls, nausea, or vomiting. Second, the duration of an episode may last a while longer. Take positional vertigo as an example. While most cases of positional vertigo last less than a minute or up to a few minutes, Meniere’s disease vertigo usually lasts at least 20 minutes and can go on for the entire day.

Vertigo is usually the first symptom that sends a patient to the doctor. It is the most severe symptom right from the beginning of the condition, while other symptoms grow worse over time. Plus, having vertigo arise out of the blue and last all day can be scary and have a significant impact on what a person can accomplish. Thus, the majority of people are going to give in and see a doctor even if they have a tendency to ignore health issues.

#2 Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear. It is a symptom that something is wrong and not an actual sound that is occurring. For a Meniere’s patient, tinnitus can become loud, distracting, and make it difficult to hear. This particular symptom will grow worse as the disease progresses, so it is essential to find some way to care for your Meniere’s as soon as possible.

#3 Fullness in the Ear

Most Meniere’s cases only occur in one ear or the other, although it is possible to have Meniere’s in both ears or to develop it in the second ear later. In the meantime, you can tell which ear the condition is affecting. A feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear with accompany most of your symptom flare-ups. This is another symptom that usually gets worse as the condition progresses.

#4 Meniere’s Disease Hearing Loss

Meniere’s disease hearing loss varies from patient to patient. For some people, hearing loss may come and go. For others, hearing issues may relate mostly to tinnitus. In many situations, low tones will be affected. This can make it challenging to hear a deep voice or the bass sounds in music. However, some people find the opposite is true and that high tones are either difficult to understand or become painful.

While some patients will say that hearing loss grows worse the longer that they have the condition, hearing loss rarely becomes permanent. Other patients may lose hearing in the affected ear due to the Meniere’s disease treatment they seek. For example, some of the injections or surgeries that may be recommended for severe cases of Meniere’s disease can leave a person deaf in the treated ear. You have to weigh the risks carefully.

Meniere’s Disease and Its Link To Reduced Blood Flow to the Brain

There was a research conducted at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine. It focused on blood flow to the brain and how it could be an underlying cause of Meniere’s disease. The study results revealed that there was a secure link between Meniere’s disease and other conditions, which involved temporary blood flow restriction to the brain. It was similar to what occurs in migraines. 

The researchers believed that by taking care of the vascular risk factors to control the symptoms, surgeries might no longer be necessary to destroy the balance function of the inner ear. In short, it is a medical step forward when it comes to hearing loss. Meaning, if we can control the attacks, then we can prevent hearing loss at the same time.

Leading Factors in Meniere’s Attacks

There are two main factors involved in these attacks:

  1. Certain risk factors for vascular disease in the brain, such as sleep apnea, smoking, atherosclerosis, and migraines
  2. There is a malformation of the inner ear which involves endolymphatic hydrops (inner ear fluid)

The theory involved in the research came from the fact that fluid buildup in the inner ear can be an indication of a problem involving pressure-regulation, which causes mild, irregular drops in blood flow in the ear. Vascular diseases also lower blood flow to the ear and brain. A sudden loss of blood flow, similar to a mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) in the brain, can be recorded in the inner ear’s sensory tissues. A mini-stroke happens when a region of the brain experiences a sudden lack of proper blood flow. As a result, this causes stroke-like symptoms that are over within 24 hours. Unlike a stroke, a TIA by itself does not cause permanent damage. 

If the tissues responsible for hearing and motion get deprived of blood, they stop sending signals to the brain. As a result, it induces tinnitus, vertigo, and hearing loss. If that theory proves to be accurate, then it would open a whole new world of care options for Meniere’s disease.

Meniere’s Disease Self-Care

Some alternatives that your doctor recommends may include lifestyle adjustments that can help to relieve your symptoms. A few examples include:

  • Eating a low sodium diet – This may reduce fluid levels in the ear. Since symptoms may flare-up when there is too much fluid in the inner ear, this can increase the time between attacks.
  • Reduce caffeine intake – While caffeine can reduce fluids in the body, it also tends to increase tinnitus according to many patients.
  • Quit smoking – Patients often report reduced symptoms after they give up this habit.
  • Manage your stress – Stress is a common trigger for Meniere’s, so you want to reduce sources of stress and control the stress that you do have to live with.

These are a few ways that you can keep your triggers at bay and limit how often you get an attack. However, it is also essential to get to the root of the problem so that you can try to find long-term relief. Therefore, we would like to introduce you to upper cervical specific chiropractic as an alternative way to get help.

Keeping the Blood Flowing Properly

A crucial link between improper blood flow to the brain and a bone misalignment in the upper cervical spine exists. The atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae are the top bones of the neck. These vertebrae carry the weight of the head and also protect the brainstem. Due to their unique shape and position, they are prone to misalignment when certain conditions happen. A quick and straightforward blow to the head or neck due to accidents or trauma can move these bones out of place. 

Even slightly misaligned, two things may occur. First, it can hinder the proper flow of blood to the brain when the brainstem is under pressure. Thus, it can begin to send improper signals to the brain about what is happening in the body. Second, the misaligned vertebrae of the neck can block the flow of blood going to the brain. If either of these occurs, then it will cause Meniere’s disease, along with other vascular conditions along the way.

Upper cervical chiropractic puts attention on the proper alignment of the bones in the upper cervical spine. Chiropractors of this unique technique help reposition the bones of the neck using a precise and gentle procedure, thus encouraging the bones to realign naturally. Many pieces of evidence from case studies support the idea that this method effectively helps with Meniere’s disease.

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