What is vestibular neuronitis?
Vestibular neuronitis, or neuritis, is an infection of the vestibular nerve in the inner ear. It causes the vestibular nerve to become inflamed, disrupting your sense of balance.
How common is vestibular neuronitis?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of vestibular neuronitis?
The common symptoms of vestibular neuronitis are:
- Sudden, severe vertigo (spinning/swaying sensation)
- Balance difficulties
- Nausea, vomiting
- Concentration difficulties
Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are closely related disorders. Vestibular neuritis involves swelling of a branch of the vestibulocochlear nerve (the vestibular portion) that affects balance. Labyrinthitis involves the swelling of both branches of the vestibulocochlear nerve (the vestibular portion and the cochlear portion) that affects balance and hearing. The symptoms of labyrinthitis are the same as vestibular neuritis plus the additional symptoms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and/or hearing loss.
Generally, the most severe symptoms (severe vertigo and dizziness) only last a couple of days, but while present, make it extremely difficult to perform routine activities of daily living. After the severe symptoms lessen, most patients make a slow, but full recovery over the next several weeks (approximately three weeks). However, some patients can experience balance and dizziness problems that can last for several months.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes vestibular neuronitis?
The vestibular nerve usually becomes inflamed because of a viral infection, which may have started with a sore throat, cold or flu.
Vestibular neuronitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection, such as a middle ear infection or meningitis, although this is much less common. Bacteria can also get into your inner ear if you have a head injury.
What increases my risk for vestibular neuronitis?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is vestibular neuronitis diagnosed?
- Hearing tests
- Tests for nystagmus
- Gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
The diagnosis involves hearing tests and tests for nystagmus, which help doctors diagnose the cause of vertigo.
Gadolinium-enhanced MRI of the head should be done to make sure the symptoms are not caused by another disorder, such as a tumor.
How is vestibular neuronitis treated?
The symptoms of vestibular neuronitis usually settle over a few weeks, even without treatment. However, there are some self-help measures you can take to reduce the severity of your symptoms and help your recovery.
Medication doesn’t speed up your recovery, but may be prescribed to help reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Your GP may prescribe medication for severe symptoms, such as:
- A benzodiazepine – which reduces activity inside your central nervous system, making your brain less likely to be affected by the abnormal signals coming from your vestibular system
- An antiemetic – which can help with symptoms of nausea and vomiting
- Antibiotics – if your vestibular neuronitis is thought to be caused by a bacterial infection
Check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication for a full list of possible side effects.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vestibular neuronitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with vestibular neuronitis:
- If you’re feeling nauseous, drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated. It’s best to drink little and often.
- If you have quite severe vertigo and dizziness, you should rest in bed to avoid falling and injuring yourself. After a few days, the worst of these symptoms should have passed and you should no longer feel dizzy all the time.
- You can do several things to minimise any remaining feelings of dizziness and vertigo. For example:
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid bright lights
- Try to cut out noise and anything that causes stress from your surroundings
- You should also avoid driving, using tools and machinery, or working at heights if you’re feeling dizzy and unbalanced.
- Once the dizziness is starting to settle, you should gradually increase your activities around your home. You should start to have walks outside as soon as possible. It may help to be accompanied by someone, who may even hold your arm until you become confident.
- You won’t make your condition worse by trying to be active, although it may make you feel dizzy. While you’re recovering, it may help to avoid visually distracting environments such as:
- Shopping centres
- Busy roads
These can cause feelings of dizziness, because you’re moving your eyes around a lot. It can help to keep your eyes fixed on objects, rather than looking around all the time.
Once you’re over the worst phase of the illness, physical activity helps you recover, even though it will be unpleasant at first.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 4, 2018 | Last Modified: May 4, 2018