Vestibular neuritis (also known as labyrinthitis) is a condition that affects the inner ear and causes dizziness and balance problems. It occurs when the vestibular nerve, which is responsible for transmitting information about balance and head movements from the inner ear to the brain, becomes inflamed. This inflammation interferes with the normal functioning of the vestibular system and leads to dizziness and unsteadiness.
The symptoms of vestibular neuritis often develop suddenly and can include vertigo (a spinning sensation), unsteadiness, imbalance, nausea, and vomiting. The condition typically resolves on its own within a few weeks to a few months, but some people may experience lingering dizziness and balance problems for an extended period of time.
Treatment for vestibular neuritis may include medications to relieve symptoms, physical therapy to improve balance and reduce dizziness, and vestibular rehabilitation to help the brain adjust to the changes in the vestibular system. In some cases, a hearing aid or other assistive device may be recommended to help improve balance and mobility.
Causes of Vestibular Neuritis:
The causes of vestibular neuritis (also known as labyrinthitis) include:
Viral infections: Vestibular neuritis is often caused by viral infections such as vestibular neuritis, vestibular neuromyelitis, or vestibulo-spinal encephalitis.
Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections, such as meningitis or labyrinthitis, can also cause vestibular neuritis.
Autoimmune disorders: Vestibular neuritis may also be caused by autoimmune disorders, such as autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED), where the immune system mistakenly attacks the inner ear.
Trauma: Head injury or trauma to the inner ear can cause vestibular neuritis.
Ototoxic medications: Certain medications, such as certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can cause vestibular neuritis by damaging the vestibular nerve or the inner ear.
Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause of vestibular neuritis is unknown and is referred to as idiopathic vestibular neuritis.
In some cases, multiple factors may contribute to the development of vestibular neuritis, and the exact cause can be difficult to determine. An accurate diagnosis is important for appropriate treatment and management of the condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Vestibular Neuritis
Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis can cause a variety of signs and symptoms, including:
- Dizziness: The primary symptom of vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis is dizziness, which can be described as a spinning sensation, unsteadiness, or a feeling of the room spinning.
- Vertigo: This is a specific type of dizziness that is characterized by a spinning sensation.
- Nausea and vomiting: The dizziness and vertigo associated with vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Balance problems: People with vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis may experience difficulty walking or standing, as the inner ear helps control balance.
- Hearing changes: Some individuals may experience hearing changes, such as temporary hearing loss or ringing in the ear.
- Headache: Headaches may occur in some people with vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis.
- Fatigue: Dizziness can be exhausting and can cause fatigue.
These symptoms can be quite debilitating and can interfere with daily activities. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek the evaluation and care of a doctor or physical therapist. They can help diagnose the condition and provide appropriate treatment, which may include physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications.
Treatment for Vestibular Neuritis
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for this condition. The goal of physiotherapy is to help improve balance, reduce dizziness, and improve overall function.
A typical physiotherapy program for vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis may include:
Vestibular rehabilitation exercises: These exercises help to retrain the brain to use other sources of information, such as visual and proprioceptive inputs, to maintain balance.
Gaze stabilizationization exercises: These exercises help to improve visual stability and reduce dizziness during head movement.
Balance training: This may include exercises to improve standing balance and walking, as well as more advanced balance activities that challenge the vestibular system.
Education and advice: Physiotherapists may provide education on triggers for dizziness and tips for reducing dizziness in everyday activities.
Manual therapy: This may include neck mobilization or manipulation to improve vestibular function and reduce dizziness.
It’s important to note that the specific physiotherapy treatment for vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis will vary based on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. A physiotherapist can develop a personalized treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s specific needs and symptoms.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about vestibular neuritis please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Lee, H., Kim, Y., Kim, J., & Lee, S. (2019). The effects of vestibular rehabilitation therapy on dizziness, gait, and balance in patients with vestibular neuritis: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Physical Therapy Science