What is labyrinthitis?
The labyrinth is a delicate structure deep inside your inner ear. It is a maze of fluid-filled channels that are responsible for controlling both your hearing and your balance. If the labyrinth becomes infected, labyrinthitis can develop. This affects your balance and can even feel like acute vertigo.
Labyrinthitis symptoms can include dizziness, a feeling of spinning, loss of balance, nausea, vomiting, a ringing in your ears (tinnitus) and in some cases deafness.
Most cases of labyrinthitis are caused by viral infection: the body receives irregular and mixed-up messages about its position when the balance mechanisms within your inner ear are infected. Labyrinthitis can also occur due to a bacterial infection, and also after a heavy cold, the flu or mumps.
Effect on your life
Although labyrinthitis is rare in children, the condition can affect people of any age.
When labyrinthitis occurs you will feel dizzy and sick. Initially, to avoid falling, it is best to rest in bed. Once you are up and about again, you should avoid driving, working at heights or operating machinery until your symptoms end.
Your GP may prescribe you medicine to reduce your dizziness (vestibular suppressants) and anti-sickness medicine (anti-emetics) if you are feeling sick.
To avoid becoming dehydrated, drink plenty of liquids little and often.
To minimise feelings of vertigo and dizziness it is best to avoid chocolate, coffee and alcohol. You are also advised to refrain from smoking and to avoid bright lights.
The symptoms usually last between one and three weeks, after which you should make a full recovery.
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