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. It occurs when a shingles infection affects the facial nerve near one of the ears. In addition to the painful shingles rash, it can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear. It 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.
Symptoms include rash of the ear or mouth, facial paresis/palsy, vertigo and hearing loss, tinnitus, otalgia, headaches, dysarthria, ataxia, fever and cervical adenopathy. 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. Immunization against Varicella zoster may help in preventing relapse of the disease.