Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Vestibular Neuritis?
This is an infection or inflammation of the vestibular nerves, also referred to as the balance nerve, which are responsible for transmitting information about the balance between your brain and inner ear. Each ear has their own vestibular nerve. It has also been referred to as labyrinthitis because both of these infections are treated the same way and have the same symptoms. Some neurologists called it vestibular neuropathy. When a person has vestibular neuritis it can be a single attack of vertigo or it may even be several attacks of vertigo. It can also be a persistent condition that will slowly diminish over twenty one to forty-two days. It is a condition that can happen to anyone regardless of age, sex, gender, or race although it is rare to see this in children. Approximately from five to fifteen percent of all cases of vertigo are due to vestibular neuritis. When a person has vestibular neuritis it will not lead to hearing loss.
Symptoms of Vestibular Neuritis
The main symptom of course is vertigo, which is a feeling of having objects that are around you are spinning around or it could be a feeling of you moving around in space.
Many people with vestibular neuritis will experience the sudden onset of severe spinning dizziness. If a person experiences symptoms of vomiting or nausea it could be severe and may last for hours, even days. It is possible that you will stay in bed for several days. After a few days these symptoms may be made worse when moving their head suddenly. There have been rare cases in which it took many months for the symptoms to go away completely.
This infection or inflammation of the vestibular nerve can be caused by a variety of things such as:
- Immune mediated processes
- Neurologic disease
- Viral infections
- Loss of blood flow to your vestibular system
Normally vestibular neuritis will follow the flu or an upper respiratory infection. It has been thought that the virus that causes vestibular neuritis is a member of the herpes group. It is thought to belong to the same group that causes those cold sores in your mouth.
Unless the case is complicated there is no additional testing besides a thorough examination that is needed. If your physician is not sure they may send you to a neurotologist, or a doctor that specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. During the examination if the physician sees a lesion on one of the vestibular nerves this is a good indication that you have vestibular neuritis.
Normally vestibular neuritis will get better on its own but it could take days, maybe even weeks. The main goal of treating this infection or inflammation is to make sure that you are comfortable until the symptoms go away.
To help combat and control the vertigo symptoms your physician may prescribe medications such as:
- Antihistamines like Benadryl, Dramamine, or Antivert.
- Sedatives like Klonopin or Valium.
- Scopolamine like Transderm-Scop.
If you are prescribed any of these medications you will usually just take them for seven to fourteen days to help control vertigo’s severe symptoms. Although they will not stop it completely it may also help with the vomiting and nausea. If you have a severe case of vertigo the physician may also prescribe antiemetic medications to help control your vomiting and nausea.
There have also been research done recently that suggests taking corticosteroids like methylprednisolone may help in your recovery. At home during the first few days when the vertigo symptoms are the worse going on bed rest and keeping your head still may make it easier to cope with it. After a few days you could try the Brandt-Daroff exercise where you slowly move your body and head side to side.