Most individuals want to move freely around without worrying about losing their balance and falling. Unfortunately, because of the important role the ear plays in balance and movement, certain ear conditions can cause a feeling of vertigo, imbalance, dizziness and even nausea. Vestibular neuronitis is one such condition.
With the tremendous amount of medical information on the internet today, it can be difficult to know the difference between what’s reliable and what’s downright false. We are here to help. In our quest to provide you with useful, dependable information, we consulted only reputable medical source when compiling this article. Read on for answers about vestibular neuronitis and its symptoms, causes, treatment methods and more.
What is Vestibular Neuronitis?
The vestibular nerve is located inside the ear. This nerve transmits sensory information from tiny hair cells to the brain. As such, the nerve is indispensable in giving human beings a sense of balance and stability. Vestibular neuronitis is an infection of the vestibular nerve. The condition causes the nerve to swell. When swollen, the vestibular nerve cannot effectively transmit information. The result is a disruption in the individual’s sense of balance.
Some healthcare professionals use the antiquated term, labyrinthitis, interchangeably with vestibular neuritis. This is a colorful term, as it invokes vivid imagery of walking through a maze. Nonetheless, labyrinthitis doesn’t necessarily share the same symptoms as vestibular neuritis. While those with labyrinthitis often experience balance or vertigo, most also complain of hearing loss. That isn’t a typical symptom of vestibular neuritis.
What Are the Symptoms of Vestibular Neuronitis?
Many different ear and neurological conditions can cause a person to feel dizzy. Most, however, also have other symptoms that distinguish them from vestibular neuronitis. With this condition, dizziness or vertigo is the most common symptom. If you are experiencing vertigo, you feel as if things are moving when in fact they are stationary. You may feel like the ground or floor is moving in a wave-like motion. This can contribute to feelings of nausea. You may also experience blurred vision.
For a vestibular neuritis diagnosis, your symptoms don’t have to be severe. On the contrary, the condition presents differently in all patients. Accordingly, you may experience mild, moderate or extreme dizziness. In severe instances, you may have difficulty walking or sitting upright. Symptoms may appear suddenly.
What Causes Vestibular Neuronitis?
Vestibular neuronitis occurs when the vestibular nerve becomes infected. This occurs because of a viral infection. As such, you may notice cold or flu-like symptoms before vestibular neuritis begins. A bacterial infection can also cause vestibular neuritis. Thus, if you have a middle ear infection, meningitis or another bacterial infection, vestibular neuritis could follow. Bacterium-induced vestibular neuritis is significantly less common than viral-caused vestibular neuronitis, though.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have Vestibular Neuronitis?
While vestibular neuritis often goes away on its own, you may need medical care. Therefore, if you notice dizziness or feel a vertigo sensation, you should contact your doctor immediately. In the meantime, you must be careful not to injure yourself or others. Dizziness and vertigo can be incredibly disorienting. They can also interfere with your ability to accomplish basic tasks. Until your vestibular neuritis resolves, avoid driving or operating machinery. Also, use stabilizing devices to avoid falling.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Vestibular Neuronitis?
To diagnose vestibular neuronitis, your doctor likely needs to know a few things about your medical history. If you have experienced the condition before, you have a greater likelihood of contracting it again. To know whether you are suffering from vestibular neuritis, your doctor also must perform a physical examination. During this exam, your doctor will likely look inside your ears. He or she also may ask you to move your body into certain positions to see whether your dizziness worsens.
Your doctor’s examination likely won’t be confined to your ears. On the contrary, most physicians use your eyes to diagnose vestibular neuritis. When you are feeling dizzy, your eyes often aren’t receiving reliable information from your vestibular system. As a result, your eyes may have difficulty focusing. They may also flicker wildly during the exam.
How Do Doctors Treat Vestibular Neuronitis?
In many cases, vestibular neuritis simply must get better on its own. Therefore, doctors often prescribe bedrest. For most patients, symptoms subside in a week to 10 days. If you have a more serious case or additional symptoms, your doctor may send you to the hospital. There, you may receive medication, IV fluids and other therapies to help speed your recovery.
When Is Emergency Medical Care Required for Vestibular Neuronitis?
While resting at home is usually the best way to recover from vestibular neuritis, emergency medical care may be necessary. If any of the following apply to you, you may choose to visit a hospital’s emergency department:
- You have a serious ear infection or meningitis
- You have symptoms for two weeks or longer
- You have hearing loss
- You have extreme soreness inside your ear or ears
Dizziness and vertigo can be uncomfortable and disorienting. To be certain you are appropriately caring for your vestibular neuronitis, you must carefully monitor your symptoms. If they seem to worsen, you should contact your doctor for further medical care. Remember, though, symptoms can increase and decrease throughout the duration of your recovery. Therefore, watching for other symptoms, such as pain, to show up is critical in effectively managing the condition.
Can Medication Cure Vestibular Neuronitis?
Because most vestibular neuronitis is caused by a virus, medication generally can’t cure the condition. Nonetheless, your doctor may prescribe medication to alleviate some of the symptoms of vestibular neuronitis. For example, your physician may ask you to take a benzodiazepine. This compound calms your central nervous system. As a result, you may not notice dizziness or vertigo, even though the underlying condition continues to exist. If you are vomiting because of dizziness or vertigo, your doctor may prescribe an antiemetic drug. This substance reduces nausea.
Of course, if your doctor determines that your vestibular neuronitis comes from a bacterial infection rather than a virus, he or she may ask you to take an antibiotic. In serious cases, these may be administered through an IV.
Are There Any Home Remedies for Treating Vestibular Neuronitis?
Generally, waiting out vestibular neuronitis is the best way to combat the condition. Because dizziness is unpleasant, you may choose to use some home remedies to treat the condition.
The best thing you can do to recover from vestibular neuronitis is to stay in bed and rest. This serves two purposes. First, it keeps you from falling. It also allows your body’s immune system to focus on battling your middle ear condition. Since recovering from vestibular neuronitis can take several days, you should try to schedule time away from work and cancel other engagements.
Things to Remember
Since vestibular neuronitis can contribute to nausea, it may make you vomit. Vomiting, of course, can leave you dehydrated. Therefore, until symptoms subside, you should be sure you are drinking enough water. Don’t overdo it, though. Instead, drink small sips frequently to stay properly hydrated while you rest.
Moreover, you should be careful about what you put into your body. As you likely know, alcohol can exacerbate feelings of dizziness. It can also contribute to dehydration. Therefore, until you no longer have dizziness, avoid drinking alcohol altogether. Further, try not to look at bright screens or lights.
Does Stress Make Vestibular Neuronitis Worse?
Stress does not necessarily make vestibular neuronitis worse. It can, however, make the symptoms of the condition seem worse. Often, stressful or busy places have a lot going on. Additional stimuli can cause feelings of dizziness or vertigo to seem extreme. Therefore, if you want to recover as quickly as possible, you should think about limiting your exposure to stimulating situations or places. Instead, stay home and focus on recovery.
Can Vestibular Neuronitis Be a Chronic Condition?
A few patients have recurring instances of dizziness or vertigo. For some, the symptoms never entirely go away. Doctors often diagnose these individuals with chronic vestibular neuronitis. For these patients, medical professionals often rely on physical therapy to attempt to retrain the brain and body to deal with long-term dizziness or vertigo.
Before advising physical therapy, your doctor should rule out all other causes of chronic dizziness or vertigo. Your physical therapist will likely ask you to perform a variety of daily exercises to help you better live with the condition. He or she may also ask you to use tools to help you compensate for long-term vestibular neuronitis.
Final Thoughts on Vestibular Neuronitis
To better manage any condition, you must first understand it. Vestibular neuronitis can be incredibly uncomfortable. After all, nobody wants to feel imbalanced, dizzy or disoriented. If you are experiencing the symptoms of the condition, you should contact your doctor immediately. Remember, it is important to rule out serious medical disorders and diseases. Fortunately, though, your vestibular neuronitis may likely resolve in a week or so. If it doesn’t, scheduling follow-up medical care is probably your best option for living a life free from dizziness.
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