Labyrinthitis is a disorder of the inner ear that results from irritation and swelling. It can cause vertigo, dizziness, and problems with balance, vision, and hearing.

Causes & Symptoms

The inner ear contains the labyrinth, a structure comprised of fluid-filled tubes responsible for balance and hearing. When an infection occurs in the inner ear, the labyrinth becomes inflamed, and the electrical signals to the brain are disrupted, leading to dizziness and related symptoms. Viral infections are most common, but other causes include upper respiratory infections, otitis media (ear infections), allergies, cholesteatoma, and certain ototoxic drugs.

In addition to the vertigo that is most often associated with this condition, symptoms include blurred vision and difficulty focusing the eyes, dizziness, hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of balance, nausea, and vomiting.

Testing & Treatment

Symptoms of labyrinthitis are similar to those associated with a variety of other conditions, making diagnosis tricky. Your doctor will give you a complete physical, and may recommend a neurological exam, as well. A CT scan, MRI, or EEG can be given to rule out any other serious causes.

Labyrinthitis often goes away within a few weeks, but medications are available to manage a variety symptoms. These include antihistamines, medications to control nausea and vomiting, drugs to combat dizziness, and sedatives. In addition, care should be taken to prevent symptoms from worsening during episodes of vertigo. Try to remain still, avoiding sudden movements or changes in position. Avoid bright lights, watching television, and reading: rest is key! Activities such as driving and operating heavy equipment should be avoided.