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Labyrinthitis

Definition

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.
Labyrinthitis
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Causes

Labyrinthitis is caused by damage or impairment of the labyrinth part of the cochlea from:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chances of labyrinthitis include:

Symptoms

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:

Diagnosis

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

Treatment may include:

Medications

Medication to control the symptoms, including:
  • Antiemetics—to control nausea and vomiting
  • Vestibular suppressants—to limit vertigo
  • Steroids—in limited situations, to help control inflammation
  • Antibiotics—to treat a bacterial infection
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 by lying 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 the sensation of spinning. 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. You may also need antiemetic medication.

Surgery

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.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of labyrinthitis:

RESOURCES

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders http://www.nidcd.nih.gov

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

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

Healthy Alberta http://www.healthyalberta.com

References

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%5Fneurosurgery/specialty%5Fareas/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.

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