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 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 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.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is commonly treated using corticosteroids and oral antiviral drugs. Steroids (prednisone) are usually prescribed for 5-7 days. Antivirals (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. Some people may use a special eye lubricant at night and artificial tears during the day to prevent the eye from drying out. Delay of treatment may result in permanent facial nerve paralysis. The hearing loss caused by Ramsay Hunt syndrome is generally irreversible.