Vestibular neuritis is caused by an inflammation of the vestibular nerve. The vestibular nerve transmits information about the movement of the head. Each ear has its own vestibular nerve, and when one is affected it creates an imbalance between the input to the balance centers in the brain. This results in vertigo, nausea, tinnitus, nystagmus (involuntary jerking of the eyeball) and dizziness.
Individuals with vestibular neuritis initially experience the sudden onset of severe spinning dizziness or vertigo. Symptoms of nausea and vomiting frequently are severe and last for hours, and even up to several days. Frequently, patients are bedridden for several days. Damage to the balance system requires retraining of the balance system to overcome severe unsteadiness. Rarely, individuals complain of “quick spins” which are brief spells lasting from seconds to minutes which creates the sensation of high speed rotation, then stops suddenly.
Vestibular neuritis can be caused by viral infections, immune mediated processes, tumors, neurologic disease, cysts, trauma, or by a loss of blood flow to the vestibular system. Unlike labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis is confined to the vestibular system and hearing is unaffected.