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Autoimmun Rev. 2012 Aug;11(10):731-8. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2012.01.004. Epub 2012 Jan 28.

Meniere's disease might be an autoimmune condition?

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Sense organs Department, Policlinico Umberto I-University of Roma, Sapienza, Italy.



To review our current knowledge of the pathogenesis of Meniere's disease, including viral infection and immune system-mediated mechanisms, and to discuss the pathogenesis as it relates to pharmacotherapy.


Relevant publications on the aetiopathogenesis, molecular biology, genetics and histopathology of Meniere's disease from 1861 to 2011 were analysed.


Meniere's disease is characterised by intermittent episodes of vertigo, fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus, and aural pressure. The aetiology and pathogenesis remain unknown. Proposed theories of causation include viral infections and immune system-mediated mechanisms. The immune response in Meniere's disease is focused on inner ear antigens. Approximately one-third of Meniere's disease cases seem to be of an autoimmune origin although the immunological mechanisms involved are not clear. The diagnosis of autoimmune inner ear disease is based either on clinical criteria or on a positive response to steroids. The antiviral approach has virtually eliminated the use of various surgical methods used in the past. Steroid responsiveness is high, and with prompt treatment, inner ear damage may be reversible. The administration of etanercept improves or stabilises symptoms in treated patients. Treatment of antiphospholipid syndrome can be directed toward preventing thromboembolic events by using antithrombotic medications. Only warfarin has been shown to be effective. Gene therapy can be used to transfer genetic material into inner ear cells using viral vectors and to protect, rescue, and even regenerate hair cells of the inner ear.

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