Q. I have Meniere's disease and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for what I should do during an attack.

Meniere's disease is an inner-ear disorder that produces a group of symptoms including vertigo, a spinning sensation that can lead to nausea and vomiting. Meniere's usually occurs in only one ear.

If you have an attack, lie still on a firm surface and stare at a stationary object. Wait for the vertigo to subside and get up slowly. Then go take a nap. Don't drink during an attack because you will probably vomit. If you can't drink without vomiting for more than a day, call a doctor.

The disease was named after French physician Prosper Ménière who first described it in 1861. Meniere's main symptoms are:

Ÿ Attacks of vertigo without warning that last 20 minutes to more than two hours.

Ÿ Permanent hearing loss that is suffered by most people with Meniere's.

Ÿ Tinnitus, which is a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling or hissing sound in your ear.

Ÿ A feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.

Attacks can come as often as daily or as little as once a year. An attack can be a combination of multiple symptoms.

The cause of Meniere's disease isn't known. It seems to be the result of the abnormal volume or composition of fluid in the inner ear. However, researchers are uncertain about what causes the changes in the fluid. There is speculation that it may be caused viral infections of the inner ear, head injury, a hereditary predisposition, and allergy. Meniere's is not contagious.

There is no cure for Meniere's, but you can find relief by reducing body fluid with diuretic medicines and a change in diet. Drugs that treat vertigo and nausea are helpful, too. If Meniere's disease is severe, it may have to be treated with surgery.

The following are some changes you can make in your lifestyle to help with Meniere's:

Ÿ Eat approximately the same amount of food at each meal to regulate body fluids. You may also eat five or six smaller meals instead of three meals a day.

Ÿ Salt can increase fluid retention. Try to consume no more than 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily.

Ÿ Avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG). Prepackaged food products and some Asian foods include MSG, a type of sodium.

Ÿ Stay away from the caffeine in coffee, tea and some soft drinks. Caffeine can make symptoms worse.

Ÿ Nicotine can make Meniere's symptoms worse, too. Quit smoking.

Part of the inner ear is a labyrinth lined with hairlike sensors that react to moving fluid. These sensors send information about body movement to the brain. The fluid and sensors tell us the direction and speed of our movements and they help us maintain balance.

If you experience symptoms of Meniere's, see a physician for a diagnosis. Meniere's symptoms can be caused by other diseases such as stroke, brain tumor, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or cardiovascular disease.

Unpredictable attacks of vertigo from Meniere's can be crippling. They can increase your risk of falling, having a car accident and getting depressed and anxious.

If you have a question, please write to fred@healthygeezer.com.

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