Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a condition induced by infection of the geniculate ganglion of the facial nerve from the herpes zoster virus. This is caused by the same virus responsible for chicken pox, which can resurface as a shingles rash. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome results when this painful rash presents in the ear, affecting the facial nerve.
Symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome are a painful reddish, blistering rash in and around the ear, with facial paralysis or weakness on the affected side. Other symptoms include hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), vertigo, loss of, or change in, sense of taste.
Causes of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome stem from the presence of the chicken pox virus in its dormant state. After some years in dormancy, the virus can resurface as shingles. It is this shingles virus, when it surfaces in the patient’s ear that becomes Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Treatment
Treatment of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome should begin as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of hearing loss and facial paralysis. A combination of antiviral drugs (Zovirax, Famvir) and pain medication is prescribed. Inflammation may be reduced with steroids. High dose prednisone and antiviral drugs are indicated. Pain control is also necessary.
The vaccine Zostavax has been effective in preventing reactivation of the chicken pox virus in patients who have already had the virus. For children who have not yet contracted the chicken pox virus, the Varicella vaccine can reduce the chance of getting the chicken pox virus.
Additional precautions are needed for eye protection where facial muscle weakness is present. Eye patches may be necessary to cover exposed eyes when the lids cannot close properly, as well as frequent rewetting of the eyes with lubricating gel or hydrating drops, to prevent corneal damage.
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