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Alternative Names Return to topBacterial labyrinthitis; Serous labyrinthitis; Neuronitis - vestibular; Vestibular neuronitis; Viral neurolabyrinthitis; Vestibular neuritis
Definition Return to top
Labyrinthitis is an ear disorder that involves irritation and swelling of the inner ear.
See also: Meniere's disease
Causes Return to top
The are likely many causes of labyrinthitis. It commonly occurs after an ear infection ( otitis media ) or an upper respiratory infection. It may also occur after an allergy, cholesteatoma, or taking certain drugs that are dangerous to the inner ear.
During labyrinthitis, the parts of the inner ear become irritated and inflamed. This interferes with their function, which includes the ability to keep your balance.
The following raise your risk for labyrinthitis:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
A complete physical and neurological exam should be done. An ear examination may not reveal any problems.
Usually, the diagnosis of layrinthitis does not require other tests. Tests will be done to rule out other causes for your symptoms. These may include:
Treatment Return to top
Labyrinthitis usually goes away within a few weeks. However, symptoms may need treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. Medications that may reduce symptoms include the following:
To prevent worsening of symptoms during episodes of labyrinthitis, try the following:
You may need help walking when symptoms occur. Avoid hazardous activities such as driving, operating heavy machinery, and climbing until 1 week after symptoms have disappeared.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
If you have severe vomiting, you may be admitted to the hospital.
Severe symptoms usually go away within a week. Most patients are completely better within 2 to 3 months. Continued dizziness is more likely to last in older patients.
Hearing usually returns to normal.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance, or other symptoms of labyrinthitis are present. Also call if hearing loss occurs.
Urgent or emergency symptoms include double vision, weakness or paralysis, slurring of speech, convulsions, fainting, persistent vomiting, or vertigo accompanied by fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prevention Return to top
Prompt treatment of respiratory infections and ear infections may help prevent labyrinthitis.
References Return to top
Polensek SH. Labyrinthitis. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2008: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.Update Date: 9/27/2008 Updated by: Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. 9/11/08