Labyrinthitis is a disorder of the vestibular nerve of the inner ear. The purpose of the nerve is to send balance and head position information from the inner ear to your brain. When the nerve is infected or inflamed, it disrupts the flow of information and can cause balance issues among others.
Labyrinthitis can occur at any age. A variety of factors can cause the disorder, including:
- Respiratory illness
- Viral infection of the ear
- Stomach viruses
- Herpes viruses
- Bacterial infection
- Infectious organisms
Smoking, drinking large quantities of alcohol, having a history of allergies and taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications can increase your risk of developing labyrinthitis.
Symptoms of labyrinthitis include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Problems with balance
In general, severe symptoms last just a few days; however, these symptoms make everyday tasks very difficult. Full recovery often takes several weeks, but could take months.
In order to make a diagnosis of labyrinthitis, your doctor will complete a physical exam and may test your hearing and/or balance. If the underlying cause of labyrinthitis can be determined, your doctor will first treat that. If a virus is causing symptoms, such as herpes, antiviral medicine is prescribed.
Labyrinthitis will usually go away on its own, which takes several weeks. In order to manage your symptoms, your doctor prescribes a combination of anti-nausea medications, anti-dizziness medications (vestibular suppressants) and steroids. If symptoms still present, your doctor may recommend a balance rehabilitation program – the purpose of which is to retrain the brain to adapt to changes in the balance system.
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