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Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis

Joseph M Furman, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Michael J Aminoff, MD, DSc
Daniel G Deschler, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Janet L Wilterdink, MD


Vestibular neuritis is also known as vestibular neuronitis, labyrinthitis, neurolabyrinthitis, and acute peripheral vestibulopathy. It is a benign disorder, self-limited, and associated with a complete recovery in most patients. Nonetheless, its symptoms of vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and gait impairment can be disabling in the short term.

Vestibular neuritis also shares clinical features with less benign disorders, particularly acute vascular lesions of the central nervous system, from which it must be accurately differentiated in order to avoid morbidity and mortality.

This topic will review the pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of vestibular neuritis. The evaluation and differential diagnosis of vertigo are discussed separately. (See "Evaluation of the patient with vertigo" and "Pathophysiology, etiology, and differential diagnosis of vertigo".)


Vestibular neuritis is generally understood to be a viral or postviral inflammatory disorder affecting the vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve. This pathophysiological mechanism is not necessarily accurate [1]. There are little pathologic data to support this mechanism in patients with this disorder, and a history of a preceding viral illness is elicited in less than one-half of patients [2-4].


Vestibular neuritis, also known as vestibular neuronitis and labyrinthitis, represents an acute, spontaneous, peripheral vestibular ailment, characterized by the rapid onset of severe vertigo with nausea, vomiting, and gait instability.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 09, 2013.
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