What is Vestibular Neuronitis?

Vestibular neuronitis (also known as vestibular neuritis) is a disorder that typically presents with a sudden onset of severe vertigo that may last 24 hours to several days. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and imbalance. The attack does not cause hearing loss or loss of consciousness and there is usually a gradual improvement in symptoms. Balance-related complaints are usually caused by rapid head or body movements and may be present for several weeks to months after the acute attack.

What causes vestibular neuronitis?

The exact cause of vestibular neuritis is unknown, but it is believed the disease is caused by a virus that in turn creates swelling around the balance nerve. The patient may have a systemic viral illness which affects the entire body or the infection may be confined to the inner ear.

How is the diagnosis made?

There is no specific test to diagnose vestibular neuronitis, but a thorough history and physical examination is necessary to rule out other causes of dizziness.

How is vestibular neuronitis treated?

Treatment for vestibular neuronitis may include a short course of steroids or medications to lessen your symptoms of vertigo, nausea and vomiting. These medications will be helpful for the first few days, but should be discontinued once your symptoms start to decrease in severity. Your balance system may need time to “reset” after vestibular neuronitis, but this can be facilitated through vestibular rehabilitation.

I have heard the term “labyrinthitis”? Is this the same as vestibular neuronitis?

Labyrinthitis is very similar to vestibular neuronitis, but they are not the same. Vestibular neuronitis does not have any auditory symptoms where as labyrinthitis usually causes some sort of hearing loss that may or may not be permanent. Just like vestibular neuronitis, labyrinthitis is most commonly caused by a virus, but can be caused by a bacterial infection, head injury, extreme stress, an allergy or a reaction to medication.