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Can Meniere's Disease, or Meniere's Disease Symptoms, be Considered an Autoimmune Disease?

 

The Internet says Meniere's Disease is an “Autoimmune Disease”. (AIED)

Really? May I offer a slightly different perspective? A more hopeful one? I have no wish to offend any medical practitioner, although I can’t imagine one reading this article unless they too are suffering. However, I would like to offer some explanations of these words to those of you with Meniere's Disease, as they are faced with this rather unpleasant set of symptoms.

Lately, I received emails telling me that Meniere's disease was indeed an autoimmune disease and there wasn‘t anything anyone could do to help themselves. (You can actually Google the title phrase.)

Normally I hear this from people with Meniere's disease once in a while, but as I heard it so often I felt I needed to study this more closely and maybe respond.

The Autoimmune Disease aspect aspect may be one perspective and the conventional one, but I would like to offer a different and more hopeful one.

I want to offer you some tools and resources that you can use to think about this differently and from a less “negative result”.

In order to make this as scientific as possible, I will provide you with definitions and links to give you hope. Most of this is “common sense”, but as you and I both know, common sense isn’t so common. But don't let that stop you from using yours to help yourself or a loved one who has Meniere's disease.

First you need to get a feel for what the words mean to the medical community. Here are links to pages on large medical facilities. Interestingly, every single day, I hear from people with Meniere's disease who have consulted with the “top” specialist in their part of the world. Yet the final diagnosis always seems to be the same: hopeless (“you have to live with this.”).

By going to these sites, you will see why these specialists all come to the same conclusions. If the top medical facilities say it is so, it has to be, right? Maybe not.

So to help you understand what you are dealing with when you have Meniere's disease, you may want to understand the meanings of these terms. You also need to appreciate them in the medical sense.

Cleveland Clinic
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/symptoms/dizziness/hic_what_is_dizziness.aspx

House Ear Clinic
http://www.hei.org/cgi-bin/search.cgi

Let’s explore the term “autoimmune disease”, what it really means, and then briefly touch on why it might be connected with “Meniere's Disease”.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/autoimmunediseases.html

Kids Health site: I love it because it’s easy to read and understand.

http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/body_basics/immune.html

The immune system is the body's defense against infectious organisms and other invaders. Through a series of steps called the immune response, the immune system attacks organisms and substances that invade our systems and cause disease. The immune system is made up of a network of:

  • Cells
  • Tissues
  • Organs

These all work together to protect the body.  Therefore in the medical world, an autoimmune response means the body attacks itself.

Here is a how "Disease" is defined in a dictionary:

dis·ease    /di'ziz/ Show Spelled [dih-zeez] Show IPA noun, verb, -eased, -eas·ing. noun http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disease

I am going to assume you will follow the links. Otherwise, the rest of the information won’t be very helpful. Every once in a while, I have ran into patients who really were satisfied with their level of health. They took their prescribed medications and didn’t question anything.

I don't find the same level of complacency with the advent and availability of the Internet. In fact, I find people questioning their Meniere's disease diagnosis all the time. So having professional and responsible sites to “consult” is good, but you also need to look at ways to help yourself. That is just common sense: that is thinking for yourself.

I use these links for several purposes. They give you a resource of a professional and trustworthy nature. They are easy to find again. They are often used by your health care professional and they are readily available. You don’t need passwords.

New research is much easier to disseminate now with the Internet. You personally can have a much clearer understanding of how your body works because you can find many sites showing the anatomy and physiology of our bodies.

You can also be made aware of new scientific discoveries. Testing with SPECT technology have allowed the medical community to really jump ahead with better understanding backed by an immediate physical image.
http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v:project=medlineplus&query=SPECT&x=19&y=13

“Seeing is believing” still leads conventional wisdom. Just be aware that many different tests are now available for every part of your body (even your thoughts!).

Medicine seems to be a study and applications of generalities and statistics. Please remember that you are an individual with one life. And we are talking about YOUR life: not a statistic. But you are part of the catchment of statistics.

I simply can’t imagine how anyone can accept the fact that it is normal to have Meniere's disease, to lie in bed, being very dizzy and often vomiting, and being told to live like this. It is like accepting this as their “life sentence”.

Surely they deserve more information and help and how to use some common sense. I know this sounds harsh, but having being involved with the Meniere's disease community for many years now, I do not see any change in treatments or hopefulness.

These sites are most often written for the layperson. So you can do some follow up once you get home. I spent some time in the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Mayo Clinic sites. While they list Meniere's Disease, they do not specifically mention it as being an autoimmune disease.

What does AIED really mean from a layperson’s perspective? Here is the medical community’s explanation.

http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v:project=medlineplus&query=AIED&x=13&y=16

You can find yourself many more related links if you Google these terms. The point is that you want to and need to study more. For our present purposes, this link represents the basic, common information.

It might help if I give you a little insight about the medical world.  I mentioned earlier about people “fitting a slot” or being a number. Understand that the medical community “batches” symptoms. I believe it is done for ease of treatment and to avoid a lot of repetitive testing and guessing.

This is done for many, many conditions. So in this case, it batches “balance and hearing” symptoms. The classic Meniere's Disease symptoms (balance {vestibular nerve} and hearing {acoustic or auditory nerve}  issues) are

And then they assign a name to their “batch”. When you show up with these or very similar symptoms, you are eventually told that you have this disease, called Meniere's Disease. And from medical world’s perspective over many long years, there has never been a cure.

Few people question this perspective. It is known as a disease the world over and the treatment for Meniere's disease is the same all over this world, and I might add, the conclusion of many “chat rooms”. And many times, you are told it is an autoimmune disease. This all seems to depend on what your specialist is comfortable with.

It is good to question ideas. In order for you to be satisfied, the response needs to be acceptable or believable.  In this case, one such response is to see the cause as an “autoimmune disease” or condition.

Here is the MedlinePlus link so you can study the variety of ideas.

http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v:project=medlineplus&query=autoimmune+diseases

The idea is that, in an autoimmune situation, the body attacks itself “by mistake”. And who are you to argue with what seems to be a reasonable, irrefutable response? So you accept this answer and continue to suffer.

If you have been a reader of my articles about Meniere's disease, you know I am all about “cause and effect”. By now, we all should know that nothing ever happens in our bodies without a cause: that is a scientific fact that no one can argue.

So what could be causing the body to attack itself to allow the name “Meniere's Disease” to qualify as an “autoimmune disease”? I encourage you to study this more closely if you truly believe it is an autoimmune disease.

As you study and explore more deeply, you will start to come across things like the immune system being weak. We know we can help our immune system. Again, there is a lot of scientific evidence to show this is very doable. Use your own searching resources so you do your own independent thinking.

Does it now mean we don’t have to accept the “irrefutable” label for Meniere's disease and have some hope that we can heal our bodies: to get rid of these balance and hearing symptoms? That depends on your own perspective.

If you want to know more, you ask questions. Simply Google the phrases “what causes vertigo” or “what cause tinnitus” (in quotes). As you can see from the above links that hold one point of view, it gets a bit tricky who would offer you more insight and consider other ideas. At least now you have some choices to consider.

If you accept the fact that Meniere's Disease is an autoimmune disease, then could you ask yourself why would your body attack itself? Why it would want to? Its constant and continual and automatic response is always to heal itself. This is a scientific fact. That is called the inflammatory process. And that is one aspect of your body’s immune system and response.

If you know scientifically that nothing happens in your body without a cause, is the cause then always present just before the Meniere's Disease symptoms show up?

We know the immune system can be healed. Therefore would it not make sense to question that it doesn’t have to STAY attacking itself? For instance, if you know that your sunscreen is causing your skin to break out in blotches, or itch like crazy, would you continue to use that same sunscreen and just say you have a disease? (This is a real life example: you should try drug reactions!!.)

Back to the autoimmune aspect again. We are all accustomed to believing that educated people know so more than we do. So, as a sufferer, you go to your doctor and then you are sent to a specialist. They do some testing and you now have an official Meniere's disease diagnosis. Episodes come at different intervals and you accept them as normal. You are told you can have occasional, unexpected flare ups.

The experts said it is so. So it must be true. Then along comes someone who wants to know more. They ask about causes and because of several episodes, they are now told it is an autoimmune disease. This sounds very serious and final.

 

Again you agree to live with these debilitating Meniere's Disease symptoms that come along unannounced and devastate your life. You are no further ahead in your understanding and have to suffer silently. But at least you have a diagnosis.

http://www.vestibular.org/vestibular-disorders/specific-disorders/autoimmunity.php

There are a few ideas you may want to mull over. Most of the medical community treats symptoms with drugs and these drugs are meant to deal with symptoms: not the cause. Isn’t that why you go to a doctor in the first place? You can’t handle the symptoms. As for Meniere's Disease, there are traditional or conventional ways to come up with the diagnosis. Subsequently, you are assigned the conventional treatment plan.

But the strange thing is that you are combining balance and hearing symptoms into one diagnosis. Just because they are in the same area, should they have to be linked? Again, from a “cause and effect” perspective, the Meniere's disease causes could be different, yet you are assigned a diagnosis, and told there is nothing to be done: that you have to live with these episodes. “The body is attacking itself again”. Pretty depressing.

MedlinePlus has a good variety of more information on other inner ear disorders. http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v:project=medlineplus&query=ear+disorders

Keep in mind that you are dealing with two different nerves: the balance (vestibular) and hearing (acoustic or auditory) nerves. But it seems once the diagnosis of Meniere's Disease is assigned, no one questions its validity.

  • I had some correspondence just this morning with a lady who was told 20 years ago that she had Meniere's Disease. Last week, her ENT told her she never had it because she was missing the hearing component! So for 20 long years, she has felt her symptoms were from a hopeless disease. She was never even encouraged to look for a cause! How sad.

It is why I often caution people to NOT use the Meniere's disease name, but to talk about their balance and hearing symptoms. It makes it less scary and more appealing to look for a cause yourself. Would you not ask yourself why your body attacks itself one minute or an hour, and then not again for hours, maybe days, months or even years?

Go back to the MedlinePlus link

http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v:project=medlineplus&query=AIED&x=13&y=16

and these

http://www.american-hearing.org/disorders/autoimmune-inner-ear-disease-aied/

http://www.vestibular.org/search/index.php

http://www.entnet.org/ENT-Search.cfm

(There are other less medically-oriented sites, but I want to stay with the medical sites for my discussion.)

These sites all maintain Meniere's Disease is a disease. But now if you look at the treatment of this “disease” as in the page on the “autoimmune disease” aspect, once again, you will see the resignation of having to live with this.

The other scary part is the concept of using strong anti-inflammatories or antihistamines to stop your body’s strong desire to heal itself. If its inherent automatic reaction is to heal itself, why would it want to attack itself?

I don’t want to stray from the Meniere's Disease connection, but look at this website on rheumatology.

http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/livingwell.asp

 

or this one on myasthenia gravis  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000712.htm

If Meniere's disease is an autoimmune condition, the suggested or conventional treatment is to use “anti-inflammatory” drugs. But if you appreciate how your body heals itself, it is WITH inflammation which brings out many natural healing elements.

So why is no one willing to try to heal the immune system? We know we can support it. Why does no one want to ask what is causing your Meniere's disease symptoms? Why would anyone assign a label like “autoimmune” to this condition?

Could it be an unwillingness to recognize that the body’s automatic natural healing system could be used? Yet in vaccinations, we use the healing concept on purpose. (We tell patients they do not have any immunity for about ten days following the injection.) Why not all the time?

In essence, if the body is irritated or upset, it automatically restores itself to health. Its restorative factors including the white blood cells are designed for that purpose. Your body carries all the requirements for healing. This is the “inflammatory process”: the basic automatic, natural healing “routine”.

When you are now told that the cause is an autoimmune disease, and that your body indeed attacks itself, why would you even begin to try and heal yourself? But, if you see this as “incomplete” or unsatisfactory diagnosis, there can be hope. The “incomplete” part arises from the fact the body seems to attack itself. The next automatic question coming from you should be WHY. Why DOES the body attack itself?

If you understand the purpose and actions of these routinely-prescribed drugs, this becomes much clearer. And you REALLY need to know how a drug works in your body. (That is why the pharmacist, by law, has to give you a monograph or explanation of the drug you are about to use.)

Why is the body not able or allowed to make use of its natural and automatic healing powers to counteract the attacker?

It is much easier to use a prescribed a drug and treat the symptoms of Meniere's disease (in this case the “inflammation”). That way you avoid having to search for an underlying cause. If you don’t have our list of “observations”, ask us for it.

You would be amazed at what  people have told us to have caused their Meniere's disease symptoms! The point is that once people have found their underlying cause, they now have the choice of what to do next. It will be up to you, the reader and most likely the sufferer, to do the searching.

Derive comfort and confidence from the fact that there is ALWAYS a cause. Yes, even in an autoimmune situation. It is a natural law that nothing ever happens in our bodies without a cause. And the cause creates the Meniere's disease symptoms and that is what catches your attention. So we are back to “cause and effect”: an irrefutable law of nature.

In my ongoing research, I have found that there are at LEAST two ways that the body slows down or shows a “not as healthy as desired state”. For our purposes, I will stay with these two, but please realize that are others. They would be already taken into consideration as you go through the exploratory and testing phases of your Meniere's Disease symptoms.

First is the natural aging process. We all will experience this. There is no escape. In a very simplistic explanation, this includes a gentle lessening of body functions and fluids. Your body adapts as you get older.

The second way is through degeneration. This is an abnormal “wearing out” of the body at any age. Incidentally these balance and hearing symptoms can come at any age. These can have a huge number of causes. This is NOT natural.

One aspect (amongst several), is called oxidation or oxidative stress. It is an overuse or wearing out of the body. This can come from too much exercise and this can happen even if just walking is too much. People love to exercise but they need to replenish the body’s restorative and building needs such as rest and nutrients, including water.

I would suspect the autoimmune diagnosis would be part of degeneration. I can’t see how it would be part of the normal aging process. There are many seniors well in their 90s who are aging gently, but not degenerating. Otherwise we would ALL be subject to all sorts of illnesses and we are not. And we don’t have to be if we choose to learn how to be healthy. There is so much information on this available in many places. No longer do we just say “it’s old age”.

Keep in mind that the very same “restorative factors” that help degeneration or oxidation will also the same that keeps you moving forward age-wise in a healthy condition. The body needs to live with certain “elements”, no matter what the need.

So you don’t need anything fancy. You just need to believe you can be healthy at any age and know what to do to get yourself there. Then do those things. That is very encouraging.

You can see that the body heals itself even well into “old age” or any age. One simple example is a cut on a finger. You EXPECT it to heal. It may take a bit longer to heal that cut, but the expectation, nevertheless, is that it WILL heal.

Happily, this same theory can be applied to any unhealthy Auto-Immune disease or even your Meniere's disease symptoms

That is your body’s automatic response and you can’t change that automatic response. So why the degeneration?  Why, in an autoimmune situation, can’t your body heal itself continually? Is it overwhelmed with irritants or elements that shut down its natural response?? Has it not enough healing  (aka health) power to overcome what is it subjected to?

So is Meniere's Disease an auto-immune disease? For now, if you have been told it is one, keep a tiny part of your mind open to questioning this far-reaching “consequence”. Keep in mind that although you may have a “disorder”, it will have a cause that precedes your obvious Meniere's Disease symptoms.

Once you can find that cause, you can decide what to do next. The autoimmune disease label or suggestion leads you to believe it is a permanent situation. By now, you should realize that with careful study, you can HOPE otherwise. Having more knowledge and understanding may lead you to shift your perspective. Otherwise this fear of having to live in this “unknown” has to be discouraging.

By Karin Henderson - Nurse, Retired.

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