Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a herpes zoster virus infection of the geniculate ganglion of the facial nerve caused by reactivation of herpes zoster virus that has previously caused chickenpox in the patient. 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 paresis/palsy, headaches, dysarthria, ataxia, fever, vertigo and hearing loss, tinnitus, otalgia etc.
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 treated using corticosteroids (prednisone) and oral antiviral drugs (acyclovir or valacyclovir), although the benefit of antiviral medications is uncertain. Immunization against Varicella zoster may help in preventing relapse of the disease. Some people may use a special eye lubricant at night and artificial tears during the day to prevent the eye from drying out.