Epidemiology of Menieres Disease

Timothy C. Hain, MD,   Please see our disclaimer. Last updated: 3/24/00

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There is considerable disagreement in the world literature about the incidence (new cases/year) and prevalence (all cases in population) of Menieres disease. To summarize, it appears that that Menieres disease has a prevalance of about 200 cases/100,000 persons in the United States, or in other words, about 0.2 % of the population, but that prevalence may vary internationally, possibly being lower by as much as a factor of 10 in some populations. The prevalence increases with age, rather linearly.

For England, Cawthorne and Hewlett (1954) reported 157 cases/100,000 cases based on the records of 8 general practices in England during the year ending March 1952. It is unclear in their report whether those figures reflect incidence or prevalence. If prevalence, this figure would be quite similar to a figure reported for the US by Wadislowvsky and associates, later). While others have suggested a prevalence rate as high as 1% (e.g. Morrison, 1995; Harrison and Naftalin, 1968), there seems to be little good evidence for this asertion.

In Japan there have been several large epidemiological studies. In these studies they defined Menieres as the combination of repeated attacks of vertigo, fluctuating cochlear symptoms with vertigo, and exclusion of other diseases (Watanabe et al, 1995). They reported average age of onset of 41-42 years of age, with a peak incidence at age 30-39. The prevalence was 16-17 per 100,000. This figure appears low. A more recent study of Shojaku and Watanabe (1997) found a prevalence of between 21.4 and 36.6, which may still be a low estimate.

There have been several studies of the US population. In the Framingham study, (Framingham, Mass, USA) 1.48 % of the population claimed to have a history of Meniere’s disease (Moscicki et al, 1985). This large prevelence figure likely derivces from a tendency of many physicians to lump all cases of recurrent vertigo into the category of Meniere's disease (Slater, 1988). Wladislavosky and associates, at the Mayo Clinic reported a prevalence in 1980 in the Rochester Minnesota population of 218.2 cases/100,000, and a incidence rate of new cases of 15.3/100,000/year. They also reported a diagnosis rate basically proportional to age up to the age of 60, with a decline thereafter. Bilaterality was found in 34% of their cohort. They commented that rates in Rochester MN appear less than those reported in England and Sweden. Harrison and Naftalin reported an incidence of 100/100,000 (1968).

In Finland, prevalence was reported to be 43/100,000 and incidence was 4.3/100,000 (Kotimaki et al, 1999). In Sweden, Stahle et al reported the incidence for 1973 of Menieres in Uppsala at 45/100,000 population. It is possible that this number is actually a prevalence figure rather than an incidence. This study also used more stringent criteria for diagosis than others have had. Meniere’s disease, by their criteria, is about 4 times as common as Otosclerosis.

In Italy, Celestino and Ralli reported an incidence rate of 8/100,000, and estimated that the prevalence was about 0.4% of the population. Their case distribution, not normalized for the age of the the population, peaked at 41-50.

It is generally felt that both sexes are equally affected and that there is no racial predisposition to Meniere’s disease.

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