Labyrinthitis: an overview and more

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Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the part of the inner ear known as the labyrinth, a system of fluid-filled canals that affects your ability to balance and hear. The condition causes severe dizziness that lasts for more than 20 minutes and sometimes several days. Labyrinthitis can be temporary if it is caused by an infection (such as otitis media ) or recurrent if it is caused by allergies or medications .

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Symptoms of labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis can cause many symptoms. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to quite severe, and in rare cases, labyrinthitis can be disabling.

The most common signs of labyrinthitis:

  • Sudden dizziness (feeling light-headed).
  • Nausea
  • Threw up

Other commonly reported problems with labyrinthitis include the following. Symptoms that affect your ear usually affect one ear, not both .

Symptoms usually appear quickly and get worse over several hours or days. The effects of labyrinthitis are usually most severe about 24 hours after they start and then gradually improve.

When to contact a healthcare provider

If you suddenly feel dizzy or have difficulty walking, it is important to see your doctor, as these symptoms can be caused by a more serious medical condition , such as stroke , brain tumor, heart disease, kidney failure, or dehydration.

Causes

The cause of labyrinthitis is not well understood, but symptoms often appear after an infection or inflammatory disease.

The circumstances that generally precede the maze include:

Risk factor's

There are several conditions that can predispose you to labyrinthitis. This can affect your ability to fight middle ear infections .

  • Of smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • History of allergies
  • Stress

Diagnostics

The diagnosis of labyrinthitis depends on your medical history and physical exam, various diagnostic tests, and the exclusion of other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Physical exam

Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about recent medical conditions, as well as your general health, including whether any risk factors apply to you.

Your ears will most likely be examined with an otoscope, a non-invasive instrument used by healthcare professionals to look inside your ear.

You may have a symptom called nystagmus , which is the "nervousness" in eye movements that can occur with labyrinthitis, so your healthcare provider will also watch your eye movements.

Your healthcare provider will also test your balance and coordination by asking you to walk and perform simple tasks like touching your nose with your finger.

If your healthcare provider wants a specialist to examine your eyes or ears, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist who will perform detailed eye exams and specialized diagnostic tests for the eyes; or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist who will perform detailed ear exams and specialized ear diagnostic tests.

Diagnostic tests

Several diagnostic tests can be helpful in evaluating the symptoms of labyrinthitis. You probably won't need all of these tests, but you may have them depending on whether your healthcare provider is concerned about the possible causes of your symptoms.

  • Head Impulse Test (HIT): This non-invasive test involves evaluating how the eyes move after moving the head. This test can help evaluate the function of the semicircular canals of the inner ear, which may indicate extensive inflammation.
  • Tympanometry : A test that uses a device similar to an otoscope, tympanometry measures the fluid in the ear and assesses the function of the middle ear and eardrum.
  • Audiogram: If you have a hearing loss, you may need some type of hearing test.
  • Electronistagmography (ENG) can be used to assess vestibular function.
  • Imaging: If you are concerned that you may have a more serious medical condition, such as a stroke or brain tumor, you may need, for example, a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI ) or computed tomography (CT) scan .

What is vestibular neuritis?

The inflammation in labyrinthitis often affects the vestibulocochlear nerve (also known as the eighth cranial nerve), causing vestibular neuritis. Inflammation of this nerve, which sends information from the labyrinth to an area of your brain to help regulate balance and coordination, causes the same symptoms as labyrinthitis. These two conditions often occur at the same time, so you may be diagnosed with this as well. They receive the same medical treatment.

Watch out

The symptoms associated with labyrinthitis can be unsettling or even debilitating. Fortunately, this condition is usually self-limited, which means it gets better on its own.

Symptoms of labyrinthitis can begin to disappear one to four weeks after it appears. Labyrinthitis usually goes away completely in two to three months. Occasionally, periodic dizziness persists and hearing loss may be permanent. This is more likely if you already had hearing loss or dizziness before the onset of labyrinthitis.

Rest

Relaxation is recommended during your recovery. Stress can make your symptoms worse .

Your healthcare provider may recommend bed rest to prevent falls or worsening of your symptoms. You can gradually increase your activity level as your symptoms decrease.

Medicine

Most people do not need medication to treat labyrinthitis, but prescription medications are an option when symptoms are persistent or difficult to tolerate.

Treatment of labyrinthitis aims to eliminate symptoms and reduce inflammation. Antiviral or antibacterial medications are not used to treat labyrinthitis, but they can be used to treat infections.

Medications used to treat labyrinthitis include:

  • Corticosteroids : Prednisone, a widely used steroid, reduces inflammation and may speed up the healing of labyrinthitis. When you stop taking steroids abruptly, steroids can cause side effects, so your healthcare provider can give you a schedule to reduce your dose when it's time to do so.
  • Antihistamines : These drugs can be used to suppress the symptoms of dizziness. The most common antihistamines used to treat labyrinthitis symptoms are usually Antvert (meclizine), Dramamine (dimensionhydrinate), and Benadryl (diphenhydramine) .
  • Antiemetics: If you experience severe nausea or vomiting, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antiemetic (anti-nausea medicine) to relieve these symptoms. Options include Raglan (metoclopramide) , Phenergan (promethazine) , Zofran (ondansetron), and Compra (prochlorperazine).

Scopolamine is an anticholinergic drug that can also be used to treat nausea. It is injected through a patch, which is usually placed behind the ear.

Benzodiazepines, including clonazepam and diazepam, are also powerful medications for treating vertigo.

Vestibular rehabilitation

Vestibular rehabilitation can be helpful if symptoms persist for a long time or become chronic. Vestibular rehabilitation is a form of physical therapy that aims to retrain your mind and body to compensate for vestibular imbalances .

This type of rehabilitation includes balance exercises (such as yoga) and strategies to help you move safely if your balance is limited.

Hospitalization

In severe cases, nausea and vomiting can lead to dehydration. In fact, you may need hospitalization, intravenous (IV) fluid replacement, and monitoring of your vital signs (heart rate and breathing). Once your labyrinthitis is gone, the nausea and vomiting will go away.

Get the word of drug information

If you experience dizziness, dizziness, unsteadiness, or other symptoms of labyrinthitis, be sure to seek medical attention. While the cause may be minor, it can also be serious and requires urgent medical attention. Labyrinthitis is a clinical diagnosis based on a combination of your history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests, but there is no definitive test to confirm this condition.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage your symptoms. As you recover, be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any lingering effects so that you can rehab and get treatment for any lingering problems.

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