What is Vestibular Neuritis/Labrinthitis?
Vestibular neuritis and vestibular labrinthitis are disorders caused by inflammation of the vestibulocochlear nerve. When this nerve is working correctly, it sends information to the brain any time we turn our head, or move. When the nerve is swollen, the information sent to the brain is incorrect, resulting in sudden and severe episodes of dizziness, nausea and imbalance. This disorder is most commonly caused by a viral infection.
The symptoms of a labrinthitis differ only from neuritis by the addition of tinnitus (ringing ears), and hearing loss. The dizziness symptoms are often short term, lasting for only a few days. However performing normal daily activities during this time becomes extremely difficult. As these symptoms reduce, most people begin to make a slow, but full recovery. On average, a full recovery takes about 3 weeks. However, there are times when people can continue to experience balance and dizziness problems, lasting for several months. In this case, physical therapy is often needed to manage symptoms effectively and improve the strength of the vestibular system to restore proper balance.
How do you Treat Vestibular Neuritis/Labrinthitis?
Initially, the focus is on reducing symptoms. This usually begins with the short term use of medications, such as Zofran® to reduce nausea, and Meclizine to reduce dizziness. If the cause of the neuritis is from a virus, an antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir is used.
Balance and Vestibular Therapy
When dizziness symptoms continues to last for more than a couple of weeks, physical therapy is required to return to normal function. In therapy, the brain is re-trained to react correctly to balance challenges. This includes walking over unsteady surfaces, activities in the dark, visual exercises and balancing on one leg.
What is a balance rehabilitation program?
When balance and dizziness problems last longer than a few weeks, a vestibular physical therapy program is recommended. The goal is to retrain the brain to adapt to challenges in balance that a patient experiences. A home exercise program will be introduced to challenge the brain to learn to adapt to movements that currently cause dizziness and imbalance. Following Physical Therapy, the brain and body will have adapted and compensated, which allows for a return to symptom free normal daily function.