Labyrinthitis is causes the fragile structure deep within the ear known as the labyrinth to inflame or swell. Once this occurs, both balance and hearing capability are affected.
What is the cause?
Labyrinthitis generally arises after a viral infection such as the flu or common cold. The infection can spread from the chest, mouth, nose and airways to the inner ear.
Bacteria can enter the labyrinth once the thin membrane separating the middle ear from the inner ear is impaired. This can occur if the individual has a middle ear infection or meningitis.
The condition can also develop among those who have underlying autoimmune ailments where the immune system wrongly attacks the healthy tissue.
What are the signs?
The usual indications of labyrinthitis include the following:
- Feeling that the surroundings are moving or spinning (vertigo)
- Some degree of hearing loss
- Feeling or being sick
The signs tend to vary in seriousness while some individuals feel that they could not stand upright.
The other signs that might be present include:
- Mild headache
- Ear pain
- Ringing or humming in the ear (tinnitus)
- Drainage of fluid or pus from the ear
- Visual changes such as double or blurry vision
The indications of labyrinthitis can be serious during the initial week, but generally settle after a few weeks. In some instances, the symptoms might last longer and has a big impact on the quality of life and capability to perform daily tasks.
Management of labyrinthitis
The signs of the condition generally pass after a few weeks. The treatment involves increasing the intake of fluid to prevent dehydration, adequate rest and medications.
In most cases of labyrinthitis, it is caused by a viral infection. Antibiotics are also given if the doctor suspects that the infection is caused by bacteria. A doctor must be consulted if the symptoms do not settle after 3 weeks.