Make no mistake about it, Meniere’s is a tough disease to deal with, and it can wear down even the strongest individual. And while certain aspects of it like hearing loss are all but inevitable, that doesn’t mean you have to take the rest of the symptoms lying down.
I’ve been fighting Meniere’s disease for over seven years now, and while there are days – and even weeks – where it knocks me down, I’ve learned how to cope with Meniere’s disease, and how to survive it.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of the things that will help you deal with Meniere’s, and if you’re just finding your footing with this disease, then following these suggestions can make your life much easier.
Find a Good Doctor
While this might seem odd that finding a good doctor takes the first spot on the list, the absolute most important thing you can do to make your life easier with Meniere’s disease, is to find a skilled, compassionate doctor. The difference between having a good doctor and a bad doctor is like night and day with this disease.
There will be times when you’ll absolutely need the support of your doctor: Whether it’s filling out disability forms, trying out new medications, or trying to find the best treatment, it’s essential to find someone both familiar with Meniere’s disease, and who is also supportive.
I went through my share of poor doctors before I found my current one (who I can’t speak highly enough about). In fact, the first two doctors I visited diagnosed me with anxiety, and as the vertigo attacks escalated, they just kept upping my dosage of anti-anxiety medications, until I had more drugs in my system than a rock star.
It was only when I visited my current doctor, that he honed in on my vertigo and balance issues, and diagnosed me with Meniere’s disease. So, don’t be afraid to switch doctors if you aren’t happy with yours – it’s your health, and you must advocate for yourself.
Keep Stress to a Minimum
While there is no definitive link between stress and flare ups of Meniere’s disease, there is mountains of convincing anecdotal evidence that stress makes symptoms worse. And that makes controlling stress one of the key components of dealing with this disease.
Of course, you might be saying ‘How do I deal with stress, when the disease by its very nature causes anxiety?’ I wish I had an easy answer for that, and I’ve experienced the terrible anxiety of worrying when the next attack will strike, or how I will deal with this long term.
But after some truly hellish years, I’ve gotten much better at controlling my anxiety, which helps to keep my stress under control. I did eventually have the help of a good therapist, but most of the work I had to do myself – I couldn’t afford to see anyone during my early years of disability.
For me, it really came down to keeping my life simple, and learning to cope with the symptoms. Dealing with stress will be different for everyone, but you’ll see dividends almost immediately if you start working at lowering your stress – making it that much easier to deal with Meniere’s disease.
Keeping fit and active is incredibly important in the fight against this disease. Not only does it help decrease stress, but when you’re fit, it helps in the fights against the disease itself.
But the key thing to remember when being active with Meniere’s disease, is to not overdo it. Overdoing it can actually trigger symptoms in many people, and not every physical activity is right for everyone. The most important thing is to stay safe, and only do what you can handle.
I know some people with Meniere’s who swear by a vigorous walk in the morning, and I also know some people who are into hardcore bodybuilding who have this disease.
That’s why it’s so important to find what works for you – and what doesn’t trigger your vertigo. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brisk walk, or an hour at the gym; All that matters is that you do something to keep fit.
There’s the perception out there that once you get diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, you’ll have to eat like a rabbit for the rest of your life. And while there are some foods you should avoid – anything with high levels of salt, alcohol, and chocolate – you can still eat a rich and fulfilling diet. And by avoiding these foods, it makes it far easier to deal with Meniere’s disease.
And while it can be difficult to summon the willpower to avoid these foods, it has been shown to help regulate the fluids in your ears over the long run. Personally, I avoid these foods religiously, but there are many people who have had success adding them back in small qualities – though always check with your doctor before changing your diet.
But I can say from personal experience, if you follow this diet, you will probably notice a marked improvement in your symptoms. Before I started avoiding these foods, I could barely stand upright, but after a few weeks of adjusting to it, I could have long stretches of with very few symptoms.
This is one of the more contentious aspects of Meniere’s disease. Some doctors swear by drugs, while others think they don’t work at all. To make matters even more complicated, one of the most popular Meniere’s drugs, Serc, isn’t available in the United States.
This subject should always be discussed with your doctor, but many people do find some relief from their symptoms with medication. But since every case is different, it’s hard to say whether this will help you deal with Meniere’s disease.
Keep it Simple
While everything mentioned above can potentially help you deal with Meniere’s, probably the best advice is to keep your life simple. One of the hardest things to come to terms with when you have Meniere’s disease is that your life has changed; You won’t always be able to do all the things you did before.
But when you simplify your life and focus on the things that really matter, it will help you cope with Meniere’s disease. And I don’t claim to have taken this lesson completely to heart yet, but it’s something I work on every day. And someday, I hope to truly simplify my life.
How do you deal with Meniere’s disease? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.