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Ménière's Disease : Causes
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine
Ménière's disease can affect people of all ages, but is especially common in those in middle age or older. The incidence in men and women is equal.

Extensive research into the cause of this symptom complex has led to the present understanding that Meniere syndrome is not the result of any particular cause, but is the reaction of the inner ear to different offending agents that cause disruption of the normal balance of the ear's fluid system.

Recognized causes of the syndrome include:

congenital inner ear deformities
inflammation of the inner ear
physical trauma to the head and ear
injury caused by loud noise
congenital or acquired syphilis
allergic disorders
autoimmune disorders, and
disorders involving blood vessels, including diabetes and hypertension.

Most cases, however, arise from no known cause and these are labeled as Ménière's disease.
Click here to see the causes of Ménière's Disease from a TCM perspective

The understanding in TCM is that the disease mainly stems from internal injuries to the liver, spleen and kidneys. This leads to loss of nourishment of the orifices and a deficit in the sea of marrow, resulting in dizziness. The causative factors of the organ damage include wind evil, fire evil and phlegm.

Excess of liver yang
The liver dominates the conduction and dispersal of qi movement. Liver-yang has the property of upward motion and causes qi or other things to ascend. Liver-yin, conversely, has the property of static motion and causes things to descend. Yin and yang mutually restrict and promote each other in order to maintain balance in the body. Hyperactivity of liver-yang or deficiency of liver-yin triggers the qi and blood to ascend to the brain. Moreover, the acceleration of qi movement also produces wind evil and leads to symptoms of dizziness or sudden blackouts.

Hyperactivity of liver-yang occurs in these situations:

In individuals who are prone to a natural excess of yang, the excess yang periodically triggers the generation of wind evil.
Emotional instability, especially long-term anger and depression, causes stagnation of the liver-qi. This results in the accumulation of fire evil in the body and the exhaustion of liver-yin. In turn, this activates the liver-yang and generates wind evil.
Damage to the kidneys, for example as a result of indulgence, results in a depletion of kidney essence and affects the liver-yang. According to the theory of the five elements, the kidneys (representing water) nourish and promote the liver (representing wood).

Obstruction of orifices by phlegm and dampness

Orifices are the openings on the body's surface to the five internal organs. Phlegm and dampness evil are heavy and turbid (viscous) in nature. They tend to cause obstructions in the places where they accumulate. When these evils are brought up by qi and reach the head, they lodge easily in the orifices and cause dizziness.

In TCM, it is believed that phlegm and dampness evil accumulate under the following conditions:

Consumption of an improper diet, such as an excess of fat and alcohol, irregular meal times, and excessive concentration and stress lead to malfunction of the spleen and stomach. The organ damage facilitates accumulation of dampness evil, which can then turn into phlegm.
Impaired functioning of the lungs, resulting in a failure to regulate and distribute fluid throughout the body, leads to a build-up of dampness evil.
When the kidneys fail to perform their vaporization function (removal of metabolic waste), excessive fluid will remain in the body.

Deficiency of the kidneys
The kidneys are responsible for storing essence and producing the marrow of which the brain is composed. The kidneys therefore nourish the brain. In kidney deficiency, the brain loses this supporting nourishment and dizziness results.

TCM holds that impaired functioning of the kidneys or loss of kidney essence happens in the following conditions:

in individuals with congenital (inherited) weakness who do not care for themselves properly
chronic disease