What is vestibular neuritis?
Vestibular neuritis happens when the vestibular nerve in your inner ear becomes swollen. This nerve carries balance signals from the inner ear to the brain. When the nerve is inflamed, it can make you feel that the room is spinning or that you have lost your balance. This is called vertigo.
Vestibular neuritis usually happens in only one ear.
What causes vestibular neuritis?
Vestibular neuritis often happens after a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. So experts believe it may be caused by a virus. But more than half of the people who get vestibular neuritis do not remember having any cold or flu symptoms before they started to feel dizzy.
The infection inflames the nerve, causing it to send incorrect signals to the brain that the body is moving. But your other senses (such as vision) do not detect the same movement. The confusion in signals can make you feel that the room is spinning or that you have lost your balance (vertigo).
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom is vertigo, which appears suddenly. It often occurs with nausea and vomiting. The vertigo usually lasts for several days or weeks. In rare cases it can take months to go away entirely.
Vestibular neuritis does not affect your hearing.
How is vestibular neuritis diagnosed?
A doctor can usually diagnose this problem based on your symptoms of sudden vertigo, nausea, and vomiting with no hearing loss.
If the cause of your symptoms is not clear, your doctor may test your eye movements and hearing or may order an MRI scan of your head.
How is it treated?
The good news is that this problem usually goes away on its own. Until the sense of motion goes away, there are things you can do to feel better.
Many people find that it helps to stay in bed for the first 2 or 3 days and keep their head still. Your doctor also may suggest balance exercises to help control your symptoms.
Sometimes you can control severe symptoms with medicines, such as antihistamines (for example, Benadryl). If you see a doctor early enough, you may be able to take corticosteroids, such as methylprednisolone. These also have been shown to help.1
Antibiotics do not work on conditions that are caused by a virus. Because doctors suspect that vestibular neuritis is caused by a virus, they don't use antibiotics to treat it.