Inner ear infection is also known as labyrinthitis. The labyrinth is a structure of the inner ear made of fluid-filled sacs and tubes. It comprises two organs, the cochlea and the balance organs. Since the labyrinth is less than half an inch long it is easily affected by infection.
Presentation of Inner Ear Infection
The leading symptom of inner ear infection is vertigo. It occurs due to movements, changes of head position etc. There is also a hearing loss. One may suffer from unilateral or bilateral hearing loss. The degree of hearing loss may differ as well. Some patients suffering from inner ear infection complain about aural fullness, tinnitus and otalgia. These patients may additionally feel nausea, vomit and develop fever. Otorrhea, facial weakness, facial asymmetry, neck pain and neck stiffness are several more symptoms of inner ear infection. In many cases the symptoms of inner ear infection occur after an infection of the upper respiratory tract.
Treatment for Inner Ear Infection
The treatment for inner ear infection depends on whether the inflammation of the specific structures are caused by viruses or bacteria.
In case of viral infection patients require plenty of bed rest and proper hydration. These patients are generally sent home and only if the symptoms get worse they are administered in the hospital. If there is an extreme nausea accompanied by prolonged vomiting, fluids may be administered intravenously. Severe nausea is treated with antiemetic medications. In some cases desirable effects are achieved with short course of corticosteroids. In case of herpes zoster oticus auditory and vestibular damage can be prevented with antiviral drugs such as acyclovir and famciclovir.
If a patient is suffering from bacterial labyrinthitis he/ she will benefit from the proper antibiotic. The antibiotic is chosen according to the culture and sensitivity results. Initial treatment must include broad-spectrum antibiotics or a combination therapy (including antibiotics that penetrate cerebrospinal fluid). Once the culture results are obtained the doctor opts for another antibiotic.
In case labyrinthitis develops as a consequence of otitis media (an inflammation of the middle ear) patients undergo a myringotomy. Myringotomy is a surgical procedure in which a doctor makes a tiny little incision in the eardrum and this way allows the accumulated fluid or pus to drain. The effects of myringotomy is the reduction of the pressure caused by middle ear fluid or pus build-up.
In some cases inner ear infection may cause suppurative intracranial complications. If this occur it is essential to consult a neurosurgeon. And finally, if there are symptoms and signs of systemic infection or unusual/atypical infections an infectious disease specialist is consulted.