Ramsay Hunt syndrome (also termed Hunt's Syndrome and herpes zoster oticus) is a herpes zoster virus infection of the geniculate ganglion of the facial nerve. It is caused by reactivation of herpes zoster virus that has previously caused chicken pox in the patient. In addition to the painful shingles rash, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear. It affects men and women equally. People with a previous chickenpox can potentially develop Ramsay Hunt syndrome. However, most cases affect older adults, especially those over 60.
Symptoms include Vesicular rash of the ear or mouth, onset of facial paresis/palsy, ipsilateral lower motor neuron facial paresis/palsy, vertigo and hearing loss, tinnitus, otalgia, headaches, dysarthria, ataxia etc. Delay of treatment may result in permanent facial nerve paralysis. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is commonly treated using corticosteroids and oral antiviral drugs. Steroids (such as prednisone) are usually prescribed for 5-7 days. Antivirals such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, can be given for 7-10 days, although the benefit of antiviral medications is uncertain. Hearing loss is generally irreversible.