by Rick Alan
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.
Labyrinthitis may be caused by:
Factors that increase your risk for 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. Initial diagnosis is based on the symptoms and the results of your exam.
Tests may include:
Treatment may include:
Medication to control the symptoms, including:
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.
Some steps to help you manage your symptoms include:
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.
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:
National Library of Medicine
Vestibular Disorders Association
Dizziness - differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated December 16, 2011. Accessed December 28, 2012.
Inner ear infections. Vestibular Disorders Associations website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ . Accessed December 28, 2012.
Labyrinthitis. American Association of Family Physicians Familydoctor website. Available at: http://familydocto... . Accessed December 28, 2012.
Labyrinthitis. Johns Hopkins Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ . Accessed December 28, 2012.
12/3/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Hillier S, McDonnell M. Vestibular rehabilitation for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(10):CD005397.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael Woods, MD