A shingles outbreak can affect the facial nerve near one of your ears, potentially causing facial paralysis and hearing loss.
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.
The two main signs and symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are:
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:
Call your doctor if you experience facial paralysis or a shingles rash on your face. Treatment that starts within three days of the start of signs and symptoms may help prevent long-term complications.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome occurs in people who've had chickenpox. Once you recover from chickenpox, the virus stays in your body — sometimes reactivating in later years to cause shingles, a painful rash with fluid-filled blisters.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a shingles outbreak that affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. It can also causes one-sided facial paralysis and hearing loss.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome can occur in anyone who has had chickenpox. It's more common in older adults, typically affecting people older than 60. Ramsay Hunt syndrome is rare in children.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome isn't contagious. However, reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus can cause chickenpox in people who haven't previously had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it. The infection can be serious for people who have immune system problems.
Until the rash blisters scab over, avoid physical contact with:
Complications of Ramsay Hunt syndrome may include:
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.
Doctors often can identify Ramsay Hunt syndrome based on medical history, a physical exam, and the disorder's distinctive signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor might take a sample of fluid from one of the rash blisters in your ear for testing.
Prompt treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome can ease pain and decrease the risk of long-term complications. Medications may include:
The following can help reduce the discomfort of Ramsay Hunt syndrome:
If facial weakness makes it difficult for you to close one of your eyes, take the following steps to protect your vision:
You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders (neurologist) or to an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist).
Before your appointment, you may want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
During the physical exam, your doctor will closely examine your face to check for evidence of one-sided paralysis or a shingles rash on, in or around your ear.
October 12th, 2021