What is Vestibular Neuronitis?
Vestibular neuronitis is one of the most common causes of vertigo, or the abnormal false sensation of spinning. It is an inflammatory condition where the vestibular nerve (one of the nerves in the inner ear that controls balance) is affected, resulting in sudden onset of vertigo, imbalance, and oftentimes nausea and vomiting.
What Causes Vestibular Neurontis?
It is thought to be caused by a viral infection, and can be triggered or accompanied by an upper respiratory infection. Other viral infections such as flu or chickenpox can also trigger vestibular neuronitis, but oftentimes the exact cause can be difficult to identify.
When the cochlear nerve (one of the nerves in the inner ear that controls hearing) is also affected, hearing loss and/or tinnitus can occur in addition to dizziness and balance problems. This condition is called labyrinthitis.
What are the Symptoms of Vestibular Neuronitis?
Vestibular neuronitis or labyrinthitis are benign and self-limited conditions, but symptoms can be debilitating and affect daily activities. Severe dizziness usually lasts for only a few days and most patients eventually make a slow but full recovery over several weeks, but balance issues and dizziness can persist for months. In cases of labyrinthitis, hearing loss may not recover.
When symptoms do not improve or get worse, additional tests may be ordered to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. These tests include an audiogram (hearing test), videonystagmography (inner ear test), and MRI.
How is Vestibular Neuronitis Treated?
Treatment for vestibular neuronitis involves managing the initial severe symptoms with medications to reduce nausea and dizziness. If a viral cause is suspected, antivirals may be prescribed. Oral steroids are also often used. Medications that reduce dizziness are called vestibular suppressants, and should not be used for more than 3 days and only as needed, since these types of medications can delay recovery.
Vestibular rehabilitation is a type of physical therapy that can retrain the brain to adjust to changes in balance, and is recommended for patients who have dizziness and balance issues that last beyond several weeks.
Call River ENT at (512) 677-6368 for more information or to schedule an appointment.