Labyrinthitis is a very annoying disorder, whoever suffers it feels that everything is spinning, making it difficult to stand.

It is an inflammation that affects a structure of the ear called the labyrinth, hence its name labyrinthitis.

Labyrinthitis: A disorder related to balance

Balance is a capacity that we have thanks to the integration of various structures of the nervous system, mainly the inner ear, pathways from the whole body through the spinal cord and the cerebellum.

The ear obtains information about the spatial location of the head, which is corroborated by the information obtained by the eyes. In the skin, muscles and bones there are receptors that transmit information about the spatial location of each and every part of the body, called proprioception.

All this information reaches the brain stem and cerebellum, allowing the location of each structure in space to be established, which allows making reflex adjustments to the tone of the muscles that allow us to maintain the postures that finally allow us to have balance.

When this information is not accurate or is altered by some disorder, loss of balance occurs.

Causes of labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is due to impaired function of the ear, which can be due to many causes, the main ones include:

  • Inner ear infections, most commonly viral in origin. It is very common for this disorder to occur a few days after presenting a cold or flu.
  • Local blood vessel alterations, which is associated with disorders such as arteriosclerosis, cigarette smoking, as well as changes in blood sugar or fat levels.
  • Use of some medications, labyrinthitis may be a side effect due to the use of medications to treat other conditions, mainly aspirin, some diuretic-type medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure, aminoglycoside-type antibiotics (gentamicin, amikacin) and some drugs to treat cancer.

There are some factors that, although they are not a direct cause of the problem, are capable of increasing the risk of it occurring. These include high levels of stress, cigarette smoking, drinking large amounts of alcoholic beverages, and having a tendency to develop nasal allergies.

Symptoms of labyrinthitis

In the case of the inner ear, it can be affected by various causes, which ultimately leads to confusion on the part of the brain about its correct location.

This causes very uncomfortable symptoms such as spinning or spinning sensation, unsteady walking, wobbling, and falling. This is also associated with the presence of ringing in the ears, nausea and even vomiting.

All these annoyances usually last several days. It is estimated that on average a labyrinthitis attack can remain for 2 or 3 weeks.

Treatment of labyrinthitis

There are several medications that are helpful when treating labyrinthitis. The most used are the antivertiginosis, including betahistidine.

It is a molecule that has the ability to increase blood flow in the inner ear, which improves the oxygenation of cells at that level, helping them to normalize their functioning.

Symptomatic treatment

Discomforts such as nausea and vomiting make those with this disorder very uncomfortable, and can even lead them to complicate the development of a state of dehydration.

For this reason, it is necessary to complement the treatment with drugs such as metoclopramide, used to control nausea and vomiting. It is even good practice to start this medication intramuscularly and, once the patient stops vomiting, start the other medications orally.

Treatment of associated conditions

When treating labyrinthitis, it is important to identify and resolve the cause that initially led to the ear involvement.

Many times it is an infection, although other problems such as the presence of some tumors or neurological involvement of the auditory nerve due to injuries that affect its circulation, as occurs in infarcts or intracranial hemorrhages, must be ruled out.

This can lead to the need to prescribe antibiotics or medications that have an effect on local circulation.

Other measures to be taken by the patient

Labyrinthitis requires home rest. The person affected by this condition should rest in bed until they regain stability. It is helpful to keep your eyes closed and remain motionless, in this way the vertigo disappears.

At the beginning, it is recommended to avoid movements, especially of the head and to carry out actions that warrant fixing the eyes such as reading or watching television.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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