Stress and unusual events are associated with a higher likelihood of attacks and increased symptom severity in Menière's disease (MD).
MD is an unpredictable condition which severely impacts the quality of life of those affected. It is thought that unusual activity and stress may act as an attack trigger in MD, but research in this area has been limited to date.
This was a longitudinal study conducted over two phases. A mobile phone application was used to collect daily data on Menière's attacks and individual symptoms (aural fullness, dizziness, hearing loss, and tinnitus), as well as prevalence of unusual events (phase I), and stress levels (phase II). There were 1,031 participants (730 women, mean age 46.0 yr) in phase I and 695 participants (484 women, mean age 47.7 yr) in phase II. Panel data regression analyses were employed to examine for associations between unusual events/stress and attacks/symptoms, including the study of 24 hours lead and lag effects.
Unusual events and higher stress levels were associated with higher odds of Menière's attacks and more severe symptoms. The odds of experiencing an attack were 2.94 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.37, 3.65) with reporting of unusual events and increased by 1.24 (95% CI 1.20, 1.28) per unit increase in stress level. Twenty-four hour lead (OR 1.10 [95% CI 1.07, 1.14]) and lag (OR 1.10 [95% CI 1.06, 1.13]) effects on attacks were also found with increases in stress.
This study provides the strongest evidence to date that stress and unusual events are associated with attacks and symptom exacerbation in MD. Improving our understanding of stress and unusual events as triggers in Menière's may reduce the uncertainty associated with this condition and lead to improved quality of life for affected individuals.