What Is Vestibular Neuritis and What Causes It?

Have you ever wondered what is vestibular neuritis?

Vestibular neuritis is a disorder that affects a nerve in the inner ear that controls balance and hearing. It causes problems with vertigo, balance, and concentration; some people also experience migraines, nausea and even vomiting.

What Causes Vestibular Neuritis?

This unpleasant condition is most often caused by common viruses, including cold viruses, herpes simplex, chicken pox, shingles, mumps, flu, and hepatitis.

Polio, which is now rare in the US, can also cause it, as well as certain kinds of bacteria.

The infections may originate somewhere else in the body, but if one of them attacks the vestibulocochlear nerve, it can result in vertigo (dizziness). Some people become disoriented as well as they try to literally rebalance themselves.

A condition called nystagmus, which causes uncontrollable rapid eye movement is a more severe but significant symptom. Luckily, the worst vertigo is usually resolved within a couple of days, but some patients continue to have other symptoms for several weeks until the virus clears out.

Many of the viruses that can cause vestibular neuritis can be avoided or weakened through vaccination.

Vestibular neuritis is usually diagnosed by an otologist (ear specialist) or neurotologist (specialist in the ear nervous system). They may conduct a hearing and balance tests, and something called a head thrust, which gauges how well the patient can focus on rapidly moving objects.

Vestibular Neuritis Treatment Addresses Symptoms

When deciding how to treat vestibular neuritis, the first order is to control the worst symptoms: nausea and dizziness.

Patients may need prescription antinausea medication; those who have severe vomiting may experience dehydration and require IV fluids. Others may be given medication to counter dizziness; not surprisingly, these are called vestibular suppressants and should only be used for a few days. If the vestibulocochlear nerve is inflamed, steroids may be prescribed as well.

If it’s been determined that herpes is behind the problem, the antiviral acyclovir will be prescribed. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.

Physicians will send patients who continue to have balance problems to balance rehabilitation, a type of physical therapy that train the brains to adjust to movement and overcome dizziness.

A vestibular physical therapist focuses on the part of the body that’s causing the balance problems, usually the legs, eyes, ears, or whole body if there is general unsteadiness. Balance and posture are addressed, and patients do head exercises to improve focusing while turning the head, and on distant objects.

Treating Vertigo at Home

If vertigo is something a patient experiences without vestibular neuritis, there are several exercises and home remedies that may help:

  • The Epley, or Canalith Maneuver, is effective for people with benign positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV), a buildup of deposits in the inner ear. It’s a set of exercises that involve head and body turning while lying down.
  • Stress can trigger vertigo, particularly in people with Meniere’s disease. Meditation and deep breathing techniques are effective for many patients, while others find relief in yoga and tai chi.
  • Some studies have found gingko biloba is very effective in strengthening balance.

Some studies have found that people who lack Vitamin D or have inadequate sleep are more susceptible to vertigo.

Treating Vertigo at Home

How Long Does Vestibular Neuritis Last?

Most patients find considerable relief from the dizziness and nausea caused by vestibular neuritis within a few days, and most people are fully recovered after a few weeks. Full recovery is when the brain has been trained to handle head movements, steady focusing, and balance.

Fewer than five percent of patients will experience another bout of vestibular neuritis.

If you find occasional or frequent episodes of dizziness or balance problems, reach out to us; we are happy to help!


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