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. Ramsay Hunt syndrome occurs when a shingles infection affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. In addition to the painful shingles rash, it can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear. Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Symptoms 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, 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. It is treated using corticosteroids (prednisone) and oral antiviral drugs (acyclovir or valacyclovir), although the benefit of antiviral medications is uncertain. 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.