How to Treat Labyrinthitis
Vestibular neuronitis, commonly called labyrinthitis, is an inflammation of the inner ear accompanied by swelling, usually of viral origin or, less frequently, bacterial. The most common symptoms include hearing loss, balance, dizziness, lightheadedness and nausea. The most disabling symptoms usually regress within a week, but other treatments are needed to find some relief and in the meantime control possible complications.
1) Recognize the symptoms.
The inner ear is a crucial organ for both hearing and balance. The swelling caused by inflammation can compromise both aspects which, in turn, have other effects on the body. The most obvious signs that help you to recognize the problem are:
– Vertigo (the environment revolves around you even if you are still);
– Difficulty focusing due to lack of eye coordination;
– Hearing loss;
– Loss of balance;
– Nausea and vomit;
– Tinnitus (buzzing or other noises in the ears).
2) Avoid carrying out activities that can complicate or aggravate the situation.
If you have recently had a viral illness (cold or flu), as well as respiratory or ear infections, the risk of labyrinthitis increases significantly. However, there are a number of activities that you can control and which can increase the risk of triggering inflammation or exacerbating the existing one. Among these the main ones are:
– Excessive consumption of alcohol;
– Serious allergies;
– Some medications (like aspirin).
3) Take counter-top antihistamines.
This kind of drug is indicated to treat allergies and helps to reduce the congestion caused by recent infections, which in turn could be the cause of oedema that triggers labyrinthitis. Among the most common antihistamines are diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), desloratadine (Clarinex) and fexofenadine (Telfast).
Many antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so read carefully the contraindications described on the package and always follow the recommended dosage.
4) Take over-the-counter medications to treat dizziness.
Since labyrinthitis is often caused by a viral infection, it is necessary to wait for the immune system to do its job and defeat the virus. During this time, however, you can reduce the discomfort caused by dizziness by taking non-prescription drugs. The most common is meclizine.
5) Manage vertigo.
Symptoms of labyrinthitis manifest more as acute attacks and not as a constant disorder. During a vertigo crisis due to the disorder, there are several things you can do to reduce its effects. In particular, you should:
– Rest as much as you can and try to stay still without moving your head;
– Avoid changing positions or making sudden movements;
– Resume activities slowly;
– To help you to walk, so as not to hurt you by falling;
– Avoid exposing yourself to too intense light, watching television
(and other electronic screens) and reading during attacks.
6) Do some exercises to reduce vertigo.
There are some specific exercises that can help you reduce this unpleasant feeling. The most effective is called Epley manoeuvre and helps to reposition the small particles present in the inner ear canal. These particles, or crystals, cause vertigo when moving from their seat. To perform the manoeuvre:
Sit on the centre point of the edge of the bed with the head facing 45 ° towards the direction from which the feeling of movement comes.
Lie back quickly and keep your head tilted towards the direction that causes vertigo. This movement should create a strong dizziness; stay in this position for 30 seconds.
Turn your head 90 ° in the opposite direction and stand still for another 30 seconds.
Rotate your head and body in the same direction at the same time (now you should be at your side with your head over the edge of the bed tilted 45 ° towards the ground). Keep this position for another 30 seconds before returning to sit normally.
Repeat this procedure 5 or 6 times until you feel the sensation of dizziness as a response to the manoeuvre.
7) Take precautions when you start feeling better.
Although the most severe symptoms usually last about a week, mild ones may drag on even for three weeks (on average). As you recover, sudden episodes of vertigo when driving, climbing, or manoeuvring heavy machinery could be dangerous. It is therefore important to take the necessary precautions and consider contacting a doctor to know when it will be safe to resume these activities.
Get Visited by the Doctor
8) Evaluate when immediate medical intervention is needed.
In most cases of labyrinthitis, the immune system is able to overcome the disorder alone. However, there are less frequent circumstances in which the disease is of bacterial origin and can result in far more serious (and potentially even fatal) consequences, such as meningitis. You must contact the emergency room immediately if you find Labyrinthitis symptoms
– Double vision;
– Consistent vomiting;
– Dysarthria ;
– Vertigo with a fever of 38.3 ° C or more;
– Weakness or paralysis.
9) Schedule an appointment with your doctor to treat Labyrinthitis.
Even if you do not have symptoms that require emergency intervention, you can still visit a doctor in case of labyrinthitis. The doctor will diagnose the aetiology (the cause) to determine if it is of bacterial or viral origin. You can also take appropriate measures to try to reduce the duration of the problem, alleviate symptoms and prevent the risk of permanent hearing damage.
Vertigo can have other causes besides the labyrinthitis; it is, therefore, important that the doctor assesses all possibilities.
10) Submit to the assessments that will advise you.
If you notice any symptoms that make you fear other possible pathologies, it will ask you to take exams to exclude them. It may advise you to do:
– An electroencephalogram (EEG);
– An electronystagmography, which verifies the ocular reactions –
to the temperature changes of the inner ear;
– A computerized tomography (CT), which allows obtaining an
accurate radiograph of the head;
– Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
– An audiometric exam.
11) Take the drugs that are prescribed for you.
Your doctor may recommend antiviral agents if you have a severe form of labyrinthitis or antibiotics if the underlying cause is a bacterial infection. Regardless of the type of prescription, be sure to follow exactly your directions and complete the entire cycle of drugs.
12) Learn about medicines that alleviate symptoms.
In addition to those to treat the cause of the labyrinthitis, the doctor may prescribe more powerful ones to manage dizziness, dizziness and other symptoms during the period of convalescence. Tell your doctor about antihistamines such as Xamamine or other over-the-counter medications you took before going to him, and make sure that you follow the instructions provided to you regarding the new medicines you will be prescribed. Among these there can be:
Prochlorperazine (Compazine) to control nausea and vomiting;
Scopolamine (Erion) to relieve vertigo;
Sedatives such as diazepam (Valium);
Steroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone or dexamethasone).
13) Ask your doctor for some information about vestibular rehabilitation if the problem is chronic.
If the symptoms are not reduced with the use of drugs and become chronic, you can ask the doctor for more details about this treatment. It is a functional physical therapy that helps to adapt and re-educate the body to the symptoms of labyrinthitis. Among the most common strategies of this rehabilitation process are:
Eye stabilization exercises: they help the brain to adapt to the new signals deriving from the altered vestibular system (the system that helps to orient oneself). A typical exercise involves fixing a specific object during the movement of the head.
Auditory canal rehabilitation exercises: chronic symptoms of labyrinthitis can cause changes in nerve signals that control balance and ambulation. These exercises improve coordination, helping you to adapt the altered sensory information you receive from the eyes and the vestibular system.
This type of therapy requires one or two sessions a week for 4 or 6 weeks.
14) Submit to surgery as a last option.
In very rare cases, your doctor may recommend an aggressive surgical operation to stop possible complications when the labyrinthitis is in an advanced state and to prevent it from becoming meningitis or encephalitis, potentially fatal diseases. The need for a labyrinthectomy (removal of an infected part of the inner ear) could also be foreseen to stop the spread of infection.
Warnings when you Treat Labyrinthitis
Although this article provides information on the labyrinthitis, you should not consider it as medical advice. Always consult the doctor to get a correct diagnosis and find a suitable therapy if you are afraid of suffering from this disorder.