Labyrinthitis is swelling and irritation in the inner ear. It occurs in the labyrinth of the ear. This is a system of cavities and canals. They affect hearing, balance, and eye movement.
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Labyrinthitis is caused by damage or impairment of the labyrinth part of the cochlea from:
Factors that may increase your chances of labyrinthitis include:
The symptoms can range from mild to severe and last for days or many weeks. Symptoms are usually temporary, but rarely, can become permanent.
The most common symptoms are:
Other symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may also need an ear and/or a neurological exam.
This can be done with:
Images help evaluate the ears or other structues. This can be done with:
Your eyes may also be tested. This can be done with an electronystagmogram.
Treatment may include:
Medication to control the symptoms, including:
Note: Without antibiotic treatment, labyrinthitis caused by a bacterial infection can lead to permanent hearing loss or balance problems.
Some steps to help you manage your symptoms include:
Your doctor may suggest specific vestibular exercises. These exercises use a series of eye, head, and body movements to get the body used to moving without the sensation of spinning. You may work with a physical therapist to learn these.
In some cases, nausea and vomiting cannot be controlled. This can result in severe dehydration . You may need hospitalization to receive fluids and nutrients through an IV. You may also need antiemetic medication.
Rarely, labyrinthitis may be caused by a break in the membranes between the outer and inner ear. Surgery to repair the break may be required. If a tumor is causing the condition, surgery may also be needed.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Vestibular Disorders Association
Dizziness - differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 16, 2011. Accessed August 14, 2014.
Infections of the inner ear. Vestibular Disorders Association website. Available at: http://vestibular.org/labyrinthitis-and-vestibular-neuritis. Accessed August 14, 2014.
Labyrinthitis. American Association of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/labyrinthitis.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed August 14, 2014.
Labyrinthitis. Johns Hopkins Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/specialty_areas/vestibular/conditions/labyrinthitis.html. Accessed August 14, 2014.
12/3/2010 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Hillier S, McDonnell M. Vestibular rehabilitation for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(10):CD005397.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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