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Symptoms of Viral Labyrinthitis (aka. Vestibular Neuritis)

29 January 2010 9 Comments
Woman experiencing the symptoms of labyrithitis. BSIP, Laurent / Natalia / Science Photo Library

Woman experiencing the symptoms of labyrithitis. BSIP, Laurent / Natalia / Science Photo Library

Today I’m going to discuss viral labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis as it is also known. Like other causes of vertigo and dizziness a good understanding of the condition you are suffering from is important both to assist you in recovery and is relieving the anxiety that you naturally feel with a problem such as this.

Viral labyrinthitis is a condition where the inner ear or the nerve running from the ear is inflamed, most commonly due to a viral infection in the chest or stomach. It can also come from a bacterial infection. This is much more rare, but is more serious. Other causes include activities like diving or flying, allergies, stress or reactions to medications.

The most obvious and dramatic symptom is intense vertigo.  This is a senation of movement or spinning when you are actually still.  Normally the bad vertigo lasts for 1-3 days then gradually eases off anywhere between 1 and 6 weeks later.  Some people are left with vertigo and dizziness that may last for years.

You may also experience a symptom called nystagmus, which is repeated uncontrolled eye movements, along with sickness, lightheadness and anxiety.

So do your symptoms match those of vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis?  Use our Self-Help Tool to help you find out.  If you have already been diagnosed with labyrinthitis, let us know whether your symptoms matched the traditional ones by using the comments section below.  Thanks!


  • eva said:

    I have been infected by a virus (probably flu or common cold concluding by the symptoms) that caused acute vestibular neuritis. Audiogram was perfect so my hearing was not affected. Medication did not help me (vomex and steroids). I also had MRI scan and other exams to be sure that nothing central is causing my vertigo.
    I feel dizzy and unstable for 35 days now (acute period being 15 days)…and the doctor told me that I will be fine probably after 2 months. Dizzyness improves, though very slowly. The worst is that all these are accompanied with extreme anxiety symptoms such as chest pressure, light-headness, palpilations and I think I have had some panic attacks…

    I hope these symptoms also go away after a month…I dont want to be left with an anxiety disorder!

  • Emma said:

    I was just diagnosed with this last week. I am experiencing all the symptoms including the eye movement. I have suffered from vertigo for six years but it was always allergy induced and lasted only a few hours after taking my antihistamines. This time its so different and I am so much sicker. I’m not sure how i get this vestibular nueritis i had not colds or viruses but i did have a bladder infection. Could that be the cause? Anyway, i have to fly next tuesday if this isn’t better is there anything i can do to make it a little easier for me or should i not even attempt it?

  • drmatt (author) said:

    Hi Emma, thanks for your comment. If you are getting repeated bouts, it makes it less likely you have viral labyrinthitis. Have you been assessed by a vestibular specialist? I have a page with specific tips on flying with vertigo and dizziness. Check it out, you’re sure to find something of use.

  • Sheila said:

    Two months ago I had a severe bout of Vertigo. I didn’t know what it was. It came on so quickly. One minute I was fine, the next minute the room was spinning very hard, I was drenched in sweat, vomiting severly and could not walk or even open my eyes. My husband called 911 and I was taken to the hospital. The hospital did an MRI, MRA, CAT Scan, EKG and ruled out stroke, heart attack, etc. I was in the hospital for 2 days. Half of the many doctors who saw me said it was BPPV and half said I had viral labyrithitis. For 3 weeks I couldn’t sit up without feeling sick. Then an ENT doctor prescribed a 6 day steroid pack which helped some. I am still dizzy all the time but I can function. Sometimes I still feel sick if I am whirling around a lot, such as when cleaning and bending a lot. I am concerned about flying. I have never had problems before but I also have not had vertigo before. I am supposed to fly in 2 weeks. Will I get severely sick again?

  • drmatt (author) said:

    Hi Shelia,

    It sounds like you did have labyrinthitis, and the chances are that you will not have the severe attack again following flying. However many people suffer ongoing balance issues after viral labyrinthitis so you may experience some feeling of nausea and dizziness after flying. Have a read of my post on flying with vertigo for tips on how to combat it.


    Dr Matt

  • Toni said:

    I was diagnosed with vestibular neuritis 12 weeks ago. I had brain and c spine MRI to rule out any thing systematic, all clear. Vertigo and serve anxiety lasted a month.
    Still experincing dizzyned, lightheadedness and an odd feeling of detatchment from reality. It has stopped me going back to work. As I work in a hosiptal I find it too hot, too noisy. Still get some noises in my ears too. Feel horrible and can’t believe the diagnosis Is right as it is So serve. All my bloods were fine too. I have bad neck pain, back pain and weakness and pins and needles down left arm. Doctors are convinced this is repetitive strain from lifting my troblesom 10 month baby at all hours. Just want to feel normal. Saw a neurologist who said to me, enjoy life you have nothing neurological going on. Wish he could experience what I am.

  • drmatt (author) said:

    Hi Toni, some people end up with permanent effects on the vestibular nerves following neuritis. The accepted theory is that the brain adapts to this, but my experience is that doesn’t always happen. This may be what you are experiencing, particularly if you have pre-existing spinal problems. I would suggest looking into vestibular rehabilitation.

  • keri said:

    hi all i have had this awful thing for 7 weeks now!! I never had a cold or anything when my vertigo happened i was on holiday with my family, and when i woke up the room was spinning it happened twice and since then i have been really bad unbalanced problems i got 2 kids under 5. I have stopped work i have to look after the kids but some days are terrible and i have now got panic attacks its so sad its taking over my life!!!

  • drmatt (author) said:

    Hi Keri, you may have had either BPPV or vestibular neuritis. However they can both cause anxiety problems. You should seek an evaluation with a practitioner who focuses on vestibular rehabilitation near you.

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