Labyrinthitis

Treatment

Labyrinthitis is usually treated using a combination of self-help techniques and medication.

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) may be recommended to treat long-term (chronic) labyrinthitis.

Self-help

Drink plenty of liquid, particularly water, little and often to avoid becoming dehydrated.

In the early stages of labyrinthitis you may feel constantly dizzy and have severe vertigo.

You should rest in bed to avoid falling and injuring yourself. Your symptoms should improve after a few days and you shouldn't feel dizzy all the time.

To minimise any remaining feelings of dizziness and vertigo:

  • lie still in a comfortable position during an attack – on your side is often best
  • avoid alcohol
  • avoid bright lights
  • try to cut out noise and anything that causes stress from your surroundings

You should also avoid driving, using tools and machinery, or working at heights if you're feeling dizzy and unbalanced.

Medication

If your symptoms are severe, your GP may prescribe medication.

This could include:

  • a benzodiazepine – reduces activity inside your central nervous system, making your brain less likely to be affected by the abnormal signals coming from your vestibular system, the part of the labyrinth that affects balance
  • an antiemetic (vestibular sedative) – can help relieve the symptoms of nausea and vomiting
  • corticosteroids – to reduce inflammation
  • antibiotics – may be prescribed if labyrinthitis is thought to be caused by a bacterial infection

Check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication for a full list of possible side effects.

When to get further medical advice

Contact your GP if you develop additional symptoms that suggest your condition may be getting worse, such as:

  • mental confusion
  • slurred speech
  • double vision 
  • weakness or numbness in one part of your body
  • a change in the way you usually walk

You may need to be admitted to hospital for further assessment and treatment.

Also contact your GP if your symptoms don't improve after three weeks. You may need to be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

Chronic labyrinthitis

A small number of people experience dizziness and vertigo for months or even years. This is sometimes known as chronic labyrinthitis. 

The symptoms aren't usually as severe as when you first get the condition, but even mild dizziness can have an impact on your quality of life and daily activities.

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT)

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) can help people with chronic labyrinthitis.

VRT uses exercises to help retrain your brain and nervous system to compensate for the abnormal signals coming from the vestibular system.

It's usually carried out under the supervision of a specially trained physiotherapist, who will use a range of exercises to:

  • co-ordinate your hand and eye movements
  • stimulate sensations of dizziness so your brain gets used to the disruptive signals sent by your vestibular system and starts to ignore them
  • improve your balance and walking ability
  • improve your strength and fitness

The Brain and Spine Foundation has more information about vestibular rehabilitation on its website.

Page last reviewed: 07/02/2017
Next review due: 07/02/2020