Labyrinthitis is a disorder that causes inflammation of the inner ear, also called the labyrinth of the ear. It can occur in one ear or affect both ears at the same time. Labyrinthitis symptoms are usually related to a person's equilibrium and hearing and are similar to ear infection symptoms.
Labyrinthitis usually occurs because of an infection of some sort. An ear infection can lead to labyrinthitis, as can an upper respiratory infection. Allergies or reactions to certain medications can also cause the condition to occur. It is not permanent, and all symptoms related to the condition should last only a few weeks at the very most.
The most common labyrinthitis symptoms are related to balance. Vertigo, a feeling of movement, is a very common symptom of the disorder, as is a loss of balance. Dizziness, or a general feeling of being light-headed, is another common symptom. In some cases, these symptoms can be so severe that they can cause nausea, upset stomach, and even vomiting.
Labyrinthitis symptoms also include involuntary movement of the eye. This can make focusing the eyes very difficult, making driving, reading, and other activities nearly impossible. It can also lead to nausea and vomiting.
In some cases of labyrinthitis, hearing loss can also occur. This loss in hearing is usually minor and typically occurs in only one ear. Associated with the hearing loss is tinnitus, a constant ringing of the ears. This usually accompanies the hearing loss.
Most labyrinthitis symptoms are temporary and will go away within a few weeks. The condition goes away on its own without the help of medication, but certain medications, such as antihistamines and sedatives, can help to alleviate the symptoms related to it if they are severe. In rare cases where the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, a doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the condition.
Since vertigo can be caused by several other, more serious conditions, a doctor may perform other tests before making a diagnosis of labyrinthitis. These tests may include an MRI, EEG, and hearing tests. A CT scan may also be performed.
In most cases, labyrinthitis symptoms can be treated only by limiting activities that cause them to flare up. Avoid sudden movements and changes in position. Reading and any other activities that require fine eye movements should also not be attempted. Bright lights should also be avoided when at all possible.