Vestibular neuritis is dizziness or vertigo attributed to a viral infection of the vestibular nerve or an autoimmune inflammation of the nerve. Occasionally, there is inflammation of other inner ear balance mechanisms as well. The vestibular nerve carries information from the inner ear about head movement. When one of the two vestibular nerves is infected, there is an imbalance between the two sides and the symptom of vertigo occurs. Vestibular neuritis is rarely painful, but in cases where pain is present, it may be caused by a viral infection, which should be diagnosed quickly for improved chances for a full recovery.
Patients with continuing symptoms may undergo an audiogram to test hearing and VNG to determine damage to inner ear balance mechanisms. An MRI scan of the brain may be performed if there is any reasonable possibility of a stroke, tumor or other mass. Testing is helpful not only for diagnosis, but also to design an effective program of balance therapy and an individualized home program.
Vestibular suppressant medications are occasionally given for brief periods to reduce vertigo (spinning or other dizziness), and anti-emetics are given to diminish nausea. Steroids can also be helpful for some patients. These medications are normally used for a brief period to treat acute symptoms. Vestibular rehabilitation exercises are prescribed to help the brain adjust and recalibrate to the injury. Most patients with this condition recover fully.
For more information, please contact our Balance Clinic at (727) 461-8635.