• Labyrinthitis


    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 affects hearing, balance, and eye movement.
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    Labyrinthitis may be caused by:
    • Viral or bacterial infection
    • Head injury
    • Disease of blood vessels
    • Stroke
    • Nerve problems
    • Autoimmune disease
    • Side effects of drugs, including:
      • Certain antibiotics
      • Aspirin
      • Quinine—may be used for malaria treatment

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk for labyrinthitis include:
    • Current or recent viral infection (especially a respiratory infection)
    • Allergies
    • Smoking
    • Drinking too much alcohol
    • Stress


    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:
    • Vertigo (spinning sensation)
    • Dizziness
    Other symptoms may include:
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Hearing loss
    • Involuntary eye movement
    • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)


    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Initial diagnosis is based on the symptoms and the results of your exam.
    Tests may include:
    • Examination of the middle ear for signs of a viral or bacterial infection
    • Neurologic examination
    • Maneuvers for evaluating for other causes of dizziness (Dix-Hallpike maneuver)
    • Hearing tests
    • Electronystagmogram—a test of eye movement
    • CT scan or MRI scan —to look at structures in the head


    Treatment may include:


    Medication to control the symptoms, including:
    • Antiemetics—to control nausea and vomiting
    • Vestibular suppressants—to limit loss of balance and dizziness
    • Steroids—in limited situations, to help control inflammation
    Anti-viral medication may be given if a virus is involved. Antibiotics may be given if a bacterial infection in involved.
    Note: Without antibiotic treatment, labyrinthitis caused by a bacterial infection can lead to permanent hearing loss or balance problems.

    Self-care Measures

    Some steps to help you manage your symptoms include:
    • Rest, lie still with your eyes closed in a darkened room during acute attacks.
    • Avoid movement, especially sudden movement, as much as possible.
    • Avoid reading.
    • Resume normal activities gradually after the symptoms have cleared.

    Vestibular Exercises (Vestibular Rehabilitation)

    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 dizziness. You may work with a physical therapist to learn these.

    Emergency Treatment

    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.


    Rarely, labyrinthitis may be due to a break in the membranes between the middle and inner ear. Surgery to repair the break may be required. If a tumor is causing the condition, surgery may also be needed.


    To reduce your risk of getting labyrinthitis:
    • Seek prompt treatment for any ear problems or infection.
    • Get medical advice on treating respiratory infections.
    • Avoid head injury by wearing seat belts and safety helmets.
    • Ask your doctor about side effects of any medication you are taking.
    • Avoid alcohol.
    • Take steps to prevent blood vessel disease or stroke. These include:


    National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

    Vestibular Disorders Association http://www.vestibular.org/


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    Healthy U http://www.healthyalberta.com/


    Dizziness - differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated December 16, 2011. Accessed December 28, 2012.

    Inner ear infections. Vestibular Disorders Associations website. Available at: http://vestibular.org/labyrinthitis-and-vestibular-neuritis . Accessed December 28, 2012.

    Labyrinthitis. American Association of Family Physicians Familydoctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/labyrinthitis.html . Accessed December 28, 2012.

    Labyrinthitis. Johns Hopkins Medical Center website. Available at: http://vestibular.org/labyrinthitis-and-vestibular-neuritis . Accessed December 28, 2012.

    12/3/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Hillier S, McDonnell M. Vestibular rehabilitation for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(10):CD005397.

    Revision Information

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