Inflammation of the inner ear: symptoms and causes

Inflammation of the inner ear is an inflammation of the labyrinth (sensitive structure of the inner ear) and causes:

Usually adults are affected, rarely children develop this disease.
Labyrinthitis is not transmitted (is not contagious).


Anatomy of the inner ear

The labyrinth is located in the inner ear and is the deepest part of this organ.

It is divided into two sections:

  • snail (cochlea): responsible for hearing,
  • Vestibularis system: responsible for balance.

In the labyrinth lie the organs of balance:

  • floor corridors,
  • Utriculus,
  • Sacculus.

Development of inner ear infection (pathophysiology)

As a rule, labyrinthitis hits the upper part of the labyrinth and its afferents (Jeong SH – Department of Neurology, Chungnam National University Hospital, Daejeon, Korea), while the lower part of the vestibular labyrinth is rarely affected.
In the semicircular ducts there is a liquid called endolymph, which moves through the movements of the head.

The nerves detect the movement of the fluid and transmit this information to the brain.
The inner ear is connected to the brain by the vestibular nerve.
The brain interprets the movement of the fluid and thus maintains balance.

The eyes also provide the brain with information about the position of the head.
If the information from the labyrinth and eyes do not match, the brain has difficulty interpreting the movements of the body.
This error of interpretation often leads to dizziness or the feeling that the body is moving, although it is actually motionless.

Causes of inner ear infection

Causes of labyrinthitis can be:

Infectious labyrinthitis

Viral and bacterial infections of the upper respiratory tract can cause labyrinthitis.
Viruses, fungi and bacteria can enter the labyrinth:

  • via the blood,
  • RџSЂRё otitis media through the oval or round window or skull (rarely).

Viral labyrinthitis Viruses that most commonly cause labyrinthitis

  • cold virus,
  • herpes zoster (viral labyrinthitis),
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Mononucleosis.

Bacterial labyrinthitis
In this case, there is a serious infection that can develop in 4 stages:

  • Serous – in the irritant initial stage, inflammation develops and exudate (inflammatory fluid with a high concentration of protein) is formed, rich in antibodies.
  • Purulent or purulent, – it is an acute infection with an accumulation of pus consisting of bacteria and antibodies.
  • fibrous – characterized by the formation of fibrous tissue; development in chronic infection a few weeks or months after the onset of acute labyrinthitis; characteristic is the multiplication of fibroblasts in the labyrinth.
  • Ossifying, at this stage there is the formation of bone tissue in the labyrinth; bone formation occurs a few months after the acute infection.

Non-infectious labyrinthitis

Autoimmune labyrinthitis
The immune system produces white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks healthy body tissues, causing lesions and inflammation.
Often, both ears are affected by the disease and patients suffer from autoimmune disorders in other areas of the body.

Toxic labyrinthitis
Toxic labyrinthitis is a sterile (not caused by germs) inflammation that can result from chemical irritation of the labyrinth membrane.
The irritants often come from your own body, and are, for example:

  • bacterial toxins,
  • mediators in inflammatory reactions (substances that play a role in the inflammatory process),
  • Metabolic products of a tumor in the middle ear, outer ear or temporal bone.

Further causes of labyrinthitis

  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Trauma
  • Allergy
  • Drug:
  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Aspirin
  • some antibiotics
  • Phenytoin at toxic level

Risk factors for inner ear infection

Improper diet, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking favor the occurrence of labyrinthitis.

The foods that increase the likelihood of developing labyrinthitis are:

  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Salt
  • Sweets,
  • Alcohol.

According to the theories of the blood group diet, dizziness may occur in a person if he eats the following foods:

  • cereals containing gluten,
  • Milk and dairy products (cheese, yogurt, etc.).

Symptoms of inner ear infection

The most common symptoms of labyrinthitis are:

  1. dizziness (vertigo), which lasts for several days; the person has the feeling of “turning” while the room is standing still or the person is standing and the room is “spinning” in circles;
  2. heaviness (hypakusis) in one or both ears;
  3. Nausea and vomiting;
  4. Loss of balance.

With movements of the head and eyes, the symptoms worsen, in severe cases, the patient must lie still in bed so as not to vomit.

Labyrinthitis can:

  • mildly,
  • be severe (severe).

Some people feel lightly lightheaded and out of balance; others cannot stand on their feet.

Other symptoms of acute labyrinthitis include:

  • mild headache,
  • tinnitus (buzzing and whistling in the ear), can occur bilaterally or unilaterally (in both or one ear),
  • feeling of malaise,
  • blurred vision,
  • horizontal-torsional spontaneous nystagmus (Jeong SH – Department of Neurology, Chungnam National University Hospital, Daejeon, Korea).

Mood disorders may occur, such as:

  • anxiety and stress,
  • Depression
  • Panic attack.

Chronic labyrinthitis
In rare cases, people suffer from spinning vertigo, dizziness and nausea for many months, even years. This disorder is called chronic labyrinthitis.
Symptoms of chronic labyrinthitis are less severe.
Dizziness, even if mild, should not be underestimated, especially in people driving trucks and other heavy vehicles.

Complications of inner ear infection

Labyrinthitis often occurs without complications. Occasionally, this condition can lead to:

The brain compensates for the damage, for example by ignoring the abnormal signals coming from the diseased ear; but the person feels insecure.

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