Endolymphatic hydrops is a disorder of the vestibular system in the inner ear. It is thought to stem from abnormal fluctuations in the fluid called endolymph which fills the hearing and balance structures of the inner ear. This condition results in a distended endolymphatic space and is referred to as endolymphatic hydrops. Endolymphatic hydrops is referred to as primary or secondary.
Primary (idiopathic) endolymphatic hydrops
Primary idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, known as Ménière’s disease, occurs for no known reason.
Secondary endolymphatic hydrops
Secondary endolymphatic hydrops occurs in response to an event, such as head trauma, allergy or an underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disorder.
The symptoms of endolymphatic hydrops include tinnitus, dizziness, fluctuating hearing loss, imbalance and a feeling of fullness/pressure in the ear.
Who is affected by endolymphatic hydrops?
Ménière’s disease and endolymphatic hydrops are often used synonymously. Ménière’s disease is idiopathic, meaning that if the cause of vertigo is known the diagnosis cannot be Ménière’s disease. People diagnosed with Ménière’s disease are thought to have endolymphatic hydrops; however not all people diagnosed with endolymphatic hydrops have Ménière’s disease.
How is endolymphatic hydrops diagnosed?
Endolymphatic hydrops is diagnosed clinically by an ENT consultant. The diagnosis will be based on a patient’s medical history, their symptoms and tests and investigations undertaken by the consultant.
Managing symptoms/treating endolymphatic hydrops
As with Ménière’s disease, reducing caffeine and alcohol may be helpful in managing your symptoms. Keeping hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet (lowering salt and sugar intake) is also considered beneficial. Medication may also be given to help control dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, if those symptoms are a problem. Diuretics may also be prescribed. Vestibular rehabilitation can help with problems with balance. Vestibular rehabilitation, or balance retraining, involves carefully practicing movements which make you dizzy. The brain learns to cope with these movements and, in time, they no longer cause dizziness and imbalance. This retraining can reduce dizziness and imbalance between major attacks of vertigo. Lifestyle changes and stress reduction techniques can help as these may also have an impact on your symptoms. In severe cases, your consultant may advise inner ear surgery to relieve the symptoms.