Vestibular Neuritis (VN)

Researches believe this condition is caused by an inflammation of the nerve of the inner ear. The nerve, called the vestibulocochlear nerve brings information from the balance system (vestibular) and the organ of hearing (cochlea) of the inner ear to the brain. Inflammation of the part of the nerve that supplies the balance system causes sudden onset of dizziness or vertigo known as vestibular neuritis. The lay persons’ term for this is labyrinthitis.

What are the causes of vestibular neuritis?

Viral infection is thought to be the cause, although there is still uncertainty. Viruses from the herpes family and reactivation of chicken pox virus are linked to VN.

What are the symptoms of vestibular neuritis?

VN is characterized by sudden onset of severe debilitating vertigo, which is the sensation of spinning of the head or the environment. Initially this is a constant sensation worsened by head or body movements. Associated with vertigo are severe imbalance, nausea, and vomiting. The symptoms decrease in severity from constant to episodic in nature over a period of days. About 15% of patients with VN develop BPPV.

How is vestibular neuritis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made after obtaining a detailed history of symptoms and performing a complete physical and neuro-otologic examination. A diagnostic hearing test is performed during the initial evaluation. Blood work is also ordered to check for infection. Electrophysiologic testing of the hearing and balance system and other tests are sometimes performed. done. An MRI is often ordered.

How is vestibular neuritis treated?

Vestibular neuritis is treated symptomatically. Medications are given for nausea, vomiting and dizziness. If onset of VN is recent then oral steroids may help to decrease the severity of dizziness. If vomiting is uncontrollable, admission into a hospital is required for intravenous rehydration. Vestibular rehabilitation exercises are very beneficial in the treatment of this conditions.

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