Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a herpes zoster virus infection 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, Ramsay Hunt syndrome 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 of Ramsay Hunt syndrome include rash of the ear or mouth, onset of facial paresis/palsy, ipsilateral lower motor neuron facial paresis/palsy, vertigo and hearing loss, tinnitus, otalgia, headaches, dysarthria, ataxia, fever and cervical adenopathy. It isis commonly treated using corticosteroids and oral antiviral drugs. Steroids are usually prescribed for 5-7 days and antivirals such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, can be given for 7-10 days. 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.