Sleep apnea is known to affect the entire body, causing or worsening many conditions that people don’t link to sleep. One of these conditions that is commonly overlooked is Ménière’s disease.
Although the overall cause of Ménière’s disease isn’t known or well understood, it does seem that sleep apnea can affect its development.
What Is Ménière’s Disease?
Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo and other ear symptoms. This may include hearing loss, tinnitus, and potentially feelings of fullness or pressure in the ear.
Ménière’s disease has no cure, but treatments can be used to reduce the impact of the condition. Typically, the goal is to reduce the impact of vertigo on the individual, which includes medications for motion sickness and nausea. Some injections can be used to reduce the vertigo, but this may lead to further hearing loss. Surgical procedures can give good results, but may also result in complications. Further treatment options that help prevent and offer nonsurgical alternatives should be considered.
The Potential Link with Sleep Apnea
Most doctors don’t link sleep apnea with Ménière’s disease, but some have pointed out a potentially significant connection. One potential contributor to Ménière’s disease is restricted blood flow to the inner ear. This leads to the expansion of the endolymphatic sac. This distension of the endolymphatic sac is often seen as the immediate cause of Ménière’s disease, and is the target of both surgical and nonsurgical treatments.
Researchers have proposed that sleep apnea could contribute to this disease process by contributing to atherosclerosis. This may partially be the snoring, whose vibrations cause tiny injuries to the blood vessels, leading to scarring and then blockage of the blood vessels. This can lead to hearing loss, but may also contribute to Ménière’s disease.
There’s little direct evidence of this connection, and no large studies that demonstrate the connection. There is, however, a pilot study showing that sleep apnea treatment with CPAP helps resolve Ménière’s disease. In this study, patients received only CPAP, not any of the standard treatments for Ménière’s disease. However, their Ménière’s disease symptoms improved.
Is Your Ménière’s Disease a Sleep Apnea Symptom?
If you are struggling with Ménière’s disease, you have likely pursued several treatment avenues. If you also have other sleep apnea symptoms, such as daytime sleepiness, snoring, and fatigue, you should consider sleep apnea treatment as another approach to improving your Ménière’s disease.