Vestibular neuronitis, also called vestibular neuritis, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the vestibular branch of the vestibule-cochlear nerve inside your inner ear. Individuals with the disorder typically experience short-term symptoms of dizziness or vertigo. If you have a persistent case of vestibular neuronitis, your doctor might recommend balance exercises that help you compensate for the effects of your condition.
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Vestibular Neuronitis Basics
Although doctors don’t fully understand the causes of vestibular neuronitis, the condition might result from the presence of a viral infection in your inner ear, according to the Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. Symptoms of the disorder include impaired balance, nausea, vomiting, visual difficulties, dizziness and a spinning sensation that can range from mild to severe. In many cases, vestibular neuronitis arises suddenly and disappears or fades after a few days or weeks. However, if a viral infection damages your vestibular nerve, you may develop long-term or permanent dizziness.
Doctors typically diagnose vestibular neuronitis by eliminating other potential causes of your symptoms, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association. If you receive a neuronitis diagnosis, initial treatment will usually involve the use of medications designed to reduce the effects of your symptoms. Medications commonly used for this purpose include diazepam, meclizine, diphenhydramine, lorazepam, promethazine hydrochloride, steroids and antiviral drugs like acyclovir. When used promptly, medications for vestibular neuronitis might be able to prevent any long-term damage to your vestibular nerve.
If you have symptoms of imbalance or dizziness that last for more than a few months, your doctor might recommend treating your neuronitis with a technique called vestibular rehabilitation therapy, the Vestibular Disorders Association reports. This specialized form of exercise is typically performed with the help of a trained physical or occupational therapist after you receive a thorough examination and review of your medical history. Depending on your circumstances, elements of your physical examination may include assessments of your eye-head coordination, posture and balance, as well as any lifestyle adjustments you have made to ease the effects of your condition.
The purpose of vestibular rehabilitation is to get your body accustomed to the presence of your neuronitis symptoms, the Vestibular Disorders Association explains. In some cases, this involves learning exercises or motions that allow you to better coordinate balance-related signals from your inner ear with those generated by your eyes and the rest of your body. In other cases, it may involve performing motions or exercises that intentionally provoke your neuronitis symptoms in order to desensitize you to their presence. Typically, your vestibular therapist will design exercises for your head, eyes and body that reflect your particular needs and symptoms.
When you begin vestibular rehabilitation, you may initially experience a worsening of your neuronitis symptoms, the Vestibular Disorders Association notes. However, your sense of balance will usually improve if you stick with your exercises for an extended period. Your doctor may also recommend vestibular rehabilitation for a variety of other inner ear disorders, including labyrinthitis, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and Meniere’s disease. Consult your doctor or physical therapist for more information.