Ramsay Hunt syndrome (also termed Hunt's Syndrome and herpes zoster oticus) is a rare neurological disorder characterized by paralysis of the facial nerve (facial palsy) and a rash affecting the ear or mouth caused by 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 chickenpox in the patient. In addition to the painful shingles rash, it can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear. Delay of treatment may result in permanent facial nerve paralysis.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is the presumed cause of as many as 20% of clinically diagnosed cases of Bell palsy. It affects men and women equally. People with a previous chicken pox can potentially develop Ramsay Hunt syndrome. However, most cases affect older adults, especially those over 60. It 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. Immunization against Varicella zoster may help in preventing relapse of the disease.