Physiological process of labyrinthitis
The labyrinth is a membrane structure that is surrounded by dense bone. When this becomes infected, it is due to an infection of the middle ear, also known as the otitis media, that spreads to the inner ear and then from there, the infection can further spread into the internal auditory canal.
There are two types of labyrinthitis, viral and bacterial, with viral being the most common. These types are explained as follows:
Also known as vestibular neuronitis, this condition is often the result of a viral infection. The symptoms are typically vertigo, nausea and vomiting. The symptoms are usually acute in the first 24 hours, after which they tend to gradually subside over the next few days. If you have viral labyrinthitis, you will be cured completely in a month or so. Diazepam, which is a vestibular (inner system of the ear responsible for balance) suppressant, as well as plenty of rest and hydration, are normally the initial treatment recommended by a doctor.
- Syphilitic labyrinthitis – This type of bacterial infection can be found at birth or it may be acquired over time. The symptoms normally develop gradually and they tend to vary in each case. They tend to progress into complete imbalance and issues with hearing. Sudden deafness or dizziness may also occur. A saddle-shaped nose, chronic eye inflammation and swelling of the forehead can also occur due to this type of labyrinthitis.
- Acute suppurative labyrinthitis – This a rare type of bacterial infection and the symptoms are typically the sudden onset of vertigo. It typically occurs as the result of a middle ear infection that is chronic and that has caused a bulk of solid debris in the middle ear. This mass can often wear down the surrounding bone of the inner ear, this further exposes the middle ear to infections. Meningitis (a condition that causes inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) may be a cause of suppurative labyrinthitis.
- Toxic labyrinthitis – This type of infection happens when a bacterial infection of the middle ear passes into the inner ear which results in a loss of hearing and balance. This can often be treated with antibiotics.