The cause of Meniere's disease isn't well understood. It appears to be the result of the abnormal volume or composition of fluid in the inner ear.

The inner ear is a cluster of connected passages and cavities called a labyrinth. The outside of the inner ear is made of bone (bony labyrinth). Inside is a soft structure of membrane (membranous labyrinth) that's a slightly smaller, similarly shaped version of the bony labyrinth. The membranous labyrinth contains a fluid (endolymph) and is lined with hair-like sensors that respond to movement of the fluid.

In order for all of the sensors in the inner ear to function properly, the fluid needs to retain a certain volume, pressure and chemical composition. Factors that alter the properties of inner ear fluid may help cause Meniere's disease. Scientists have proposed a number of potential causes or triggers, including:

  • Improper fluid drainage, perhaps because of a blockage or anatomic abnormality
  • Abnormal immune response
  • Allergies
  • Viral infection
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Head trauma
  • Migraines

Because no single cause has been identified, it's likely that Meniere's disease is caused by a combination of factors.

Dec. 11, 2012

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