Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a rare neurological disorder 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, Ramsay Hunt syndrome (herpes zoster oticus) occurs when a shingles infection affects the facial nerve near one of the ears. In addition to the painful shingles rash, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear. Symptoms include vesicular rash of the ear or mouth, onset of facial palsy, ipsilateral lower motor neuron facial paresis/palsy, vertigo and hearing loss, tinnitus, otalgia, headaches, dysarthria, ataxia, fever and cervical adenopathy.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is said to be the cause of 16% of all causes of facial palsies in children, and 18% of facial palsies in adults. It 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 chickenpox 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, although the benefit of antiviral medications is uncertain. Immunization against Varicella zoster may help in preventing relapse of the disease.