What is vestibular neuritis?
Vestibular neuritis is a condition that causes vertigo and dizziness. It results from inflammation of your vestibular nerve, a nerve in the ear that sends information to your brain about balance. When it’s inflamed, this information isn’t properly communicated, making you feel disoriented.
Vestibular neuritis usually improves after a few days. However, the symptoms can take about three weeks to subside. You may also have recurring periods of dizziness and vertigo for several months.
Vestibular neuritis vs. labyrinthitis
Vestibular neuritis is often confused with labyrinthitis. While the two conditions are very similar, there are slight differences.
Vestibular neuritis refers to inflammation of your vestibular nerve only. Labyrinthitis refers to inflammation of both your vestibular nerve and your cochlear nerve, which transmits information about your hearing.
This means that labyrinthitis also causes hearing problems, including trouble hearing and ringing in your ears, in addition to vertigo. Vestibular neuritis, on the other hand, only causes vertigo symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of vestibular neuritis usually come on quickly and are most intense when they first appear.
What causes it?
Most cases of vestibular neuritis are caused by a viral infection, either in your inner ear or other part of your body. Common viral infections that could cause vestibular neuritis include:
In some cases, bacterial infections can cause vestibular neuritis. However, labyrinthitis is more likely to be caused by bacteria.
How is it diagnosed?
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will try to rule out any serious causes of your dizziness, such as a stroke or neurological condition. They might do this by using an MRI scan or asking you to perform certain movements.
Next, they’ll likely test your hearing to narrow down which nerves are affected.
How is it treated?
For vestibular neuritis caused by an underlying infection, you’ll likely need antibiotics or antiviral medications to treat the infection. There’s no standard treatment for vestibular neuritis itself, but a few things might help to reduce your symptoms as you recover.
Certain medications can help with dizziness and nausea. These include
- diphenhydramine (Bendadryl)
- meclizine (Antivert)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- diazepam (Valium)
If you can’t stop vomiting and become severely dehydration, your doctor might also suggest IV fluids. You can also try these 10 home remedies for vertigo.
If your symptoms aren’t getting any better after a few weeks, you may need vestibular rehabilitation therapy. This involves doing gentle movements, such as Brandt-Daroff exercises, to help your brain adjust to changes in your balance. When you first start doing these exercises, you might feel like your symptoms are getting worse, which is normal.
Recovery time for this condition
You should notice an improvement in your symptoms within a few days, though it can take about three weeks to fully recover. Keep in mind that you may still feel occasional dizziness for several months.
While vestibular neuritis can make it hard to do your usual physical activities, try to keep moving as much as possible while you recover. This can help your body regain its sense of balance sooner.
Living with vestibular neuritis
While vestibular neuritis can be alarming, most people make a full recovery without any lingering symptoms within a few weeks. If you continue to have spells of dizziness and vertigo after several months, medication and physical therapy may be helpful.