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What is Ménière’s disease, and is there a cure? Dizziness, loss of hearing and vomiting are symptoms of ear condition that caused Cantopop star Jacky Cheung to fall on stage

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Early one December morning in 2020, Matthew Miller woke up feeling “a little weird”. Then the room started spinning, and he spent the next couple of hours vomiting into the toilet.

After two days in hospital, where the Hong Kong resident underwent a CAT scan and audiometry tests – “hearing in my left ear was reduced by 20 per cent” – Miller was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, a rare condition, believed to be the result of a build-up of fluid in the inner ear, that can lead to dizzy spells and is associated with hearing loss.

Miller, now 53, had heard of it: his father has the disease, and though it is still little understood it does seem to run in families.

In retrospect, he had experienced mild symptoms in the year leading up to his debilitating attack.

Miller’s experience of Ménière’s disease was extremely distressing. Photo: May Tse

“I felt like my ear was plugged, like it felt full, and I couldn’t hear quite right,” he says. “It came and went so I just put it down to congestion from a cold or because I had been swimming.”

However, he had never experienced severe dizziness until that December morning. Another bad attack occurred a couple of months later, in February 2021, while he was cooking lunch for his son’s 13th birthday.

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In the autumn of 2022, Miller was in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, on his way to work at the South Morning China Post – where he is employed on the business desk – when he experienced another episode that involved an emergency trip to the hospital.

“I had to stop and sit down on a shop step,” he recalls. “I called my wife and she called an ambulance. There was no way I could go anywhere or do anything.”

In August 2023, Ménière’s disease – which anyone can get at any time, but which usually starts to manifest in sufferers between the ages of 40 and 60 – made news when Hong Kong Cantopop star Jacky Cheung Hok-yau attributed a fall on stage during a concert in Malaysia to the condition.

Ménière’s disease made news when Hong Kong Cantopop star Jacky Cheung attributed a fall on stage during a concert in Malaysia to the condition. Photo: YouTube/Xiao Hong Shu
Cheung was performing at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur on his 60+ Concert Tour when he took a tumble while singing his hit, “Just Want To Spend My Life With You”.

Videos circulating on social media show the 62-year-old picking himself up and, in true “the-show-must-go-on” style, continuing to sing.

Later, addressing the stumble, Cheung disclosed that he had suffered from Ménière’s disease – named after Prosper Ménière, a French doctor who first identified the disorder in 1861 – since he was young.

Ménière’s disease is an extremely distressing condition, a fact made worse by the lack of clear diagnostic criteria and the fact it can strike without warning.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, based in the US state of Minnesota, symptoms of Ménière’s disease include dizzy spells in which one experiences a spinning feeling that starts and stops suddenly.

This feeling of vertigo may start without warning, the clinic says, and usually lasts 20 minutes to 12 hours, but not more than 24 hours. Serious vertigo can cause nausea.

Other symptoms can include hearing loss that may come and go, as well as ringing in the ear, known as tinnitus.

Imaging scans and other tests may be used to rule out other conditions when a patient experiences symptoms of Ménière’s disease. Photo: Shutterstock

People with Ménière’s disease often feel pressure in the ear, known as aural fullness, it says.

A healthcare provider will carry out hearing and balance tests on people who report with symptoms of the condition, while laboratory tests, imaging scans and other tests may be used to rule out other conditions, the Mayo Clinic says.

Miller with his family in Phuket, Thailand, in April. Photo: courtesy of Matthew Miller

While there is no known cure, some treatments can be considered, such as taking mild diuretics, and betahistine and/or oral corticosteroid tablets. Lifestyle modifications such as reducing salt intake and caffeine and alcohol consumption may also help.

Miller says he takes two medicines to help manage his condition: “Betahistine [for treating vertigo symptoms], brand name Merislon, and prochlorperazine, an anti-nausea med in case of emergency.”

Not knowing what triggers an attack is frustrating, Miller says.

“For sure it has caused anxiety and interrupted my life, and my family’s life.”

Article was originally published from here

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