Vestibular Neuronitis

Vestibular Neuronitis

Vestibular neuronitis is a disorder of the vestibulocochlear nerve of the inner ear. The purpose of the nerve is to send balance and head position information from the inner ear to the brain. When the nerve is infected or inflamed, it disrupts the flow of information.
Symptoms of vestibular neuronitis include vertigo, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, trouble concentrating and problems with balance. In general, severe symptoms last just a few days; however, these symptoms make everyday tasks very difficult. Full recovery often takes several weeks, but could take months.

This disorder is diagnosed by a specialist such as an otologist, also known as an ear doctor. The doctor may test your hearing and/or balance. One test, called the head thrust test, determines if you can maintain focus on an object during rapid head movement; the doctor will look for uncontrolled rapid eye movement, which is a sign of vestibular neuronitis.

If the underlying cause of vestibular neuritis can be determined, the doctor will first treat that. If a virus is causing symptoms, such as herpes, antiviral medicine is prescribed. (Vestibular neuritis is not caused by bacteria so antibiotics are never used.)

The doctor will also help you manage your symptoms. You may take a combination of anti-nausea medications, anti-dizziness medications (vestibular suppressants) and steroids. If symptoms still present, your doctor may recommend a balance rehabilitation program – the purpose of which is to retrain the brain to adapt to changes in the balance system.

Ninety-five percent of patients only experience vestibular neuritis once in their life, and most patients fully recover.