What is the difference between Vestibular Neuritis and Labyrinthitis?

People that have made the rounds of neurological doctors are well aware of the Vestibular Neuritis Vs Labyrinthitis debate. It’s easy to see why these two would get confused; they are both neurological disorders, have similar symptoms, & involve similar organs in the body. However, these two are different, & a proper thesis is required to differentiate between the two.

Vestibular Neuritis is an infection or inflammation of the vestibular nerve which forms a part of your body’s balance system, also called the Vestibular System. When this happens, the nerve can’t transmit accurate signals regarding the body’s position in space to the brain, which further leads to dizziness, disorientation, & a false sense of spinning, swaying, or moving.

Labyrinthitis on the other hand, is an infection or inflammation of the labyrinth, which is an organ inside the inner ear that controls the body’s balance. When this organ gets swollen, the body is unable to maintain steady balance during activities, which further leads to dizziness, nausea, & sometimes, ear pain.

The first ideal difference between Vestibular Neuritis& Labyrinthitis is that while both conditions lead to dizziness, nausea, & vertigo symptoms, the latter can also cause ringing sounds in the ear, along with ear aches & pains. There are other differences as well, although we’ll be in a better position to understand those once we read about the two conditions in detail.

Vestibular Neuritis:

Vestibular Neuritis is a condition that causes Vertigo & dizziness. It occurs due to inflammation of the vestibular nerve, which is a nerve in the inner ear that is responsible for carrying balance signals to & from the inner ear to the brain.

When this nerve gets inflamed or infected, it can’t properly send signals to the brain regarding the body’s balance, leading to dizziness & Vertigo symptoms. In most cases, Vestibular Neuritis improves on its own. However, it can take upto three weeks for the same to happen.

In some cases, it is possible for patients to experience recurring symptoms of Vertigo & dizziness even after Vestibular Neuritis symptoms improve.

Vestibular Neuritis symptoms:

Vestibular Neuritis symptoms usually appear suddenly, and are also most intense when they first surface.

The most well-known Vestibular Neuritis symptoms are:

  • Vertigo that occurs suddenly,
  • Issues maintaining balance,
  • Nausea & vomiting,
  • Dizziness,
  • Troubles with concentration & focus

Vestibular Neuritis causes:

In most cases, Vestibular Neuritis is caused by a viral infection, either in the inner ear or in any other part of your body. Some common viral infections that could cause Vestibular Neuritis include:

  • Measles,
  • Flu,
  • Mononucleosis,
  • Rubella,
  • Mumps,
  • Shingles,
  • Chicken pox

Some cases of Vestibular Neuritis might also be caused by bacteria. However, statistically Labyrinthitis is more likely to be caused by bacteria.

Vestibular Neuritis diagnosis:

The standard practice during Vestibular Neuritis diagnosis is to first rule out any other potentially fatal causes of Vestibular Neuritis. These causes include strokes, brain disorders, or any neurological condition that might impact your health in an adverse way.

The doctors will likely use MRI scans or CT scans to arrive at these conclusions. They might also ask you to perform certain movements so that they can determine how well your brain controls your body. Hearing & vision tests will be next to determine exactly which nerve or nerves are affected.

If the doctors are able to narrow down the vestibular nerve as the cause of the dizziness & Vertigo symptoms, then Vestibular Neuritis diagnosis is the most likely option.

Vestibular Neuritis treatment:

In cases where the Vestibular Neuritis symptoms are due to an inner ear viral or bacterial infection, antiviral or antibacterial medicines are the best line of treatment.

There are no specific treatment plans available for Vestibular Neuritis as of yet. Treatment largely consists of mitigating & reducing symptoms, either through medicines or Vestibular Neuritis exercises.

Certain medications have also been known to help treat Vestibular Neuritis symptoms like dizziness, nausea, & Vertigo. These medications include:

  • Diphenhydramine, also known as Bendadryl
  • Meclizine, also known as Antivert
  • Lorazepam, also known as Ativan
  • Diazepam, also known as Valium

Vestibular Neuritis exercises like Brandt-Daroff etc. are also helpful in mitigating & relieving Vestibular Neuritis symptoms, & have been known to help patients get rid of their symptoms. Vestibular Neuritis symptoms might become worse the first time you do these exercises, which is a pretty normal occurrence.

Once you start doing these Vestibular Neuritis exercises, you might feel some improvement within a few days. Although, it is important to remember that Vestibular Neuritis symptoms can take upto three weeks to fully subside.

Labyrinthitis:

Labyrinthitis is an inner ear disorder that occurs when the labyrinth, which is an organ, located inside the inner ear & is crucial for maintaining balance in the body, becomes infected & inflamed. When this happens, the Vestibular system is unable to send accurate balance information to the brain & vice versa, causing dizziness, nausea, disorientation, & symptoms of Vertigo. Labyrinthitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. In some cases, the exact labyrinthitis causes remain unknown.

Labyrinthitis Symptoms:

Labyrinthitis symptoms usually begin suddenly & are quite intense for the first few days. They usually fade afterwards, though they can be triggered by certain head movements. Labyrinthitis doesn’t usually cause any pain.

Some of the most common labyrinthitis symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of balance & coordination
  • Vomiting & nausea
  • Tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear
  • Loss of high-frequency range hearing, usually in one ear
  • Difficulty in focusing your eyes & concentrating

Although it is very rare, labyrinthitis can cause permanent hearing loss.

Labyrinthitis Causes:

Although labyrinthitis has a variety of causes & can occur at any age, there are a few causes that are common across a majority of people. These include:

  • Any respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis
  • Viral inner ear infections
  • Stomach viruses
  • Herpes viruses
  • Bacterial infections that include middle ear infections too
  • Lyme disease & other infectious organisms

If you smoke, drink alcohol in large quantities, have a medical history of allergies, take Over-The-Counter medicines such as Aspirin, & are under extreme amounts of stress, then your chances of getting labyrinthitis are more.

Labyrinthitis diagnosis:

Labyrinthitis diagnosis is done during a physical exam. As labyrinthitis is a swelling or inflammation inside the ear, it’s usually quite easy to diagnose. In cases where it’s not physically apparent, your doctor might run some neurological tests on you. Your doctor might also perform certain other tests to rule out any other conditions that imitate labyrinthitis symptoms. These conditions include:

  • Meniere’s Disease, an inner ear disorder
  • Migraine
  • Mini stroke
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Damage in the neck arteries
  • Benign paroxysmal Positional vertigo,
  • Brain tumor

In addition to checking for these conditions, your doctor might also give you certain other tests. These include:

  • Hearing tests
  • Blood tests
  • A CT or a MRI scan of your head that records & checks your cranial structures
  • An electroencephalogram(EEG test), that checks brain waves
  • An electronystagmography test(ENG), that records & checks eye movements

Labyrinthitis treatment:

Labyrinthitis treatment includes medicines like :

  • antihistamines such as desloratadine, also known as clarinex
  • Dizziness & nausea relieving medicines like meclizine(Antivert),
  • Sedatives like diazepam(Valium)
  • Corticosteroids like prednisone
  • Over-The-Counter antihistamines like fexofenadine(Allegra), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or loratadine (Claritin)

For an active infection, your doctor can also prescribe you antiviral or antibacterial medications to treat the infection. We hope you have greater clarity on the Vestibular Neuritis Vs labyrinthitis issues now.

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