In what is described as the most comprehensive study of Ménière’s Disease to date, researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School have been able to suggest what goes wrong in the body when people develop the disease, and provide an insight into factors that lead to its development, according to a university press release.

Jessica Tyrrell, PhD

Jessica Tyrrell, PhD

Ménière’s Disease can cause tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo attacks, and a feeling of pressure deep within the ear. Yet as a long term but non-fatal illness, it has received little attention from the scientific community. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that about 615,000 people in the US have Ménière’s disease and that 45,500 new cases re-diagnosed each year. About 160,000 people in the UK have the disorder, according to the university.

As such reasons for why people develop the condition and how symptoms occur have so far remained unclear, making diagnosis and treatment a difficult task.

With funding from the UK Ménière’s Society and using data from the UK Biobank, the research team analyzed records from 1,376 Ménière’s sufferers. They found the disease is more prevalent in females, those from white backgrounds, and older people.

Individuals from poorer backgrounds were also found to be more likely to develop the disease, as well as those who are overweight.

By comparing and contrasting their data with nearly a half-million people without the condition, the team also discovered that Ménière’s disease is linked to immune system disorders and diseases related to the autonomic nervous system, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, and arthritis.

“This study has provided several advances in our understanding of Ménière’s Disease,” said lead researcher on the project, Jessica Tyrrell, PhD, in a press statement. “It seems likely that a dysfunctional immune system has some role in the development of the illness, and other factors, including the nervous system, are also playing a part.”

The analysis also showed that Ménière’s patients were more likely to suffer falls and mental health problems, such as depression, than people without the condition.

Natasha Harrington-Benton from the UK Ménière’s Society welcomed the findings. “Understanding the impact of Ménière’s on people’s physical and mental health is vital when providing information to people on how best to manage their symptoms,” said Harrington-Benton. “Ménière’s is a condition that can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in the early stages. The more information that can be given to those affected, the better equipped they’ll be to cope day-to-day.”

Source: University of Exeter