Eric Thompson from Newtownards, decided to form a support group after he was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease back in July 2012. Eric experienced frequent attacks of vertigo often causing severe sickness and diarrhoea. One attack lasted for several hours; he was so violently sick that he was forced to seek urgent medical attention. Eric describes this as one of the worst experiences of his life. Being diagnosed with such a debilitating disease turned his life upside down affecting his work and home life. To date Eric has been forced to take eight months off work, putting his successful career in sales on hold. He has been unable to return to work due to the unpredictable nature and frequency of attacks.

Eric describes what prompted him to set the group up “After I was diagnosed I felt alone and wanted to gain as much information as possible about my condition, I joined the Ménière's Society which put me in contact with other sufferers. I found peer support really helped me, so I wanted to help others”.

The first meeting that Eric held was a success; those who attended were able to meet and talk to others who knew what it was like to live with a vestibular (inner ear) disorder. For sufferers, just knowing that they are not alone can be extremely comforting.

40% of people over the age of 40 experience dizziness and imbalance which can be caused by many different conditions. Ménière’s disease is a long term progressive condition affecting the balance and hearing parts of the inner ear. Symptoms are acute attacks of vertigo (severe dizziness), fluctuating tinnitus, increasing deafness, and a feeling of pressure in the ear.

Due to the nature of Ménière's disease, sufferers are often left feeling anxious and isolated, with the constant fear of ‘if and when’ they will have a vertigo attack. It could strike at anytime; in the middle of a supermarket when suddenly their whole world would spin rapidly and they would be violently sick. For the general public who are unaware of the condition, the sufferer could be mistaken for being drunk. Sadly this is the unfortunate prejudice that many Ménière's sufferers have experienced. Rather than helped to a quiet area to recover, some have been sneered at by unknowing passers by. The lack of knowledge of vestibular disorders fuels the isolation felt by many that suffer from these kinds of conditions who are often left confined to their home.

Eric, like so many people who suffer from a vestibular disorder found his confidence knocked, but it is through the Ménière's Society that he was put in contact with others in a similar situation. Eric has done a remarkable job of setting up the group which offers a lifeline to others who suffer from vestibular disorders. The next meeting will take place Tuesday 7 May 2013.

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