Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: What are the symptoms, treatments, info?

Ramsey Hunt Syndrome (OpenL)

Here’s a look at Ramsay Hunt syndrome (herpes zoster oticus) and what it entails.

What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Ramsay Hunt syndrome (herpes zoster oticus) occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. In addition to the painful shingles rash, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox clears up, the virus still lives in your nerves. Years later, it may reactivate. When it does, it can affect your facial nerves.

Prompt treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome can reduce the risk of complications, which can include permanent facial muscle weakness and deafness.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the two main signs and symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are:

  • A painful red rash with fluid-filled blisters on, in and around one ear
  • Facial weakness or paralysis on the same side as the affected ear

Usually, the rash and the facial paralysis occur at the same time. Sometimes one can happen before the other. Other times, the rash never occurs.

If you have Ramsay Hunt syndrome, you might also experience:

  • Ear pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Difficulty closing one eye
  • A sensation of spinning or moving (vertigo)
  • A change in taste perception or loss of taste
  • Dry mouth and eyes

Complications

Complications of Ramsay Hunt syndrome may include:

  • Permanent hearing loss and facial weakness. For most people, the hearing loss and facial paralysis associated with Ramsay Hunt syndrome is temporary. However, it can become permanent.
  • Eye damage. The facial weakness caused by Ramsay Hunt syndrome may make it difficult for you to close your eyelid. When this happens, the cornea, which protects your eye, can become damaged. This damage can cause eye pain and blurred vision.
  • Postherpetic neuralgia. This painful condition occurs when a shingles infection damages nerve fibers. The messages sent by these nerve fibers become confused and exaggerated, causing pain that may last long after other signs and symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome have faded.

Prevention

Children are now routinely vaccinated against chickenpox, which greatly reduces the chances of becoming infected with the chickenpox virus. A shingles vaccine for people age 50 or older also is recommended.

Read more here from the Mayo Clinic.


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.