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Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS)

Ramsay Hunt syndrome  or herpes zoster oticus happens when a shingles outbreak affects your facial nerve near one of the ears. The virus that causes chickenpox causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome as well. The virus that still lives in your nerves after chickenpox clears up reactivates again.

What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

Named after James Ramsay Hunt, the syndrome was discovered in 1907. The occurs in those with chickenpox. The virus stays in the body after an individual recovers from chickenpox and sometimes reactivates in later years leading to shingles, a painful rash with fluid-filled blisters. Ramsay Hunt syndrome affects the facial nerve near one of the ears and can also cause one-sided facial paralysis as well as hearing loss.

What are the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

The two main symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are:

  1. Painful red rash with fluid-filled blisters in, on, and around one of the ears
  2. Facial paralysis or weakness on the same side as the affected ear

Other symptoms include :

Hearing loss

Ringing sound in your ear 

Difficulty closing your eyes

Vertigo 

A change in taste or smell

Feeling thirsty

What causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

Once a person recoups from chickenpox, the virus survives in his/her body and in some cases reactivating after a while to cause shingles and painful rash with blisters.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome affects the facial nerve near the ear. This leads to facial paralysis and inability to hear.

When do you need to see a doctor?

See a doctor if you experience facial paralysis or a shingles rash on your face. Medication should start within three days to prevent long-term complications.

During the physical exam, your doctor will closely investigate your face to examine for one-sided paralysis or a  shingles rash close to your ear.

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals. 

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

How can you prevent RHS?

Nowadays, children are systematically vaccinated to prevent chickenpox. In the case of senior citizens, it is advised to take a dose of the shingles vaccine .

Complications 

  1. Permanent facial weakness and hearing loss: For many, the hearing loss and facial paralysis linked with Ramsay Hunt syndrome is temporary. But, it can become permanent as well.
  2. Eye damage: The facial weakness due to Ramsay Hunt syndrome can make it difficult for the person to close their eyelid. When this occurs, the cornea that protects the eye, can become damaged. This damage can cause blurred vision and eye pain.
  3. Postherpetic neuralgia: This painful condition happens when shingles infection damages nerve fibers. 

What are the home remedies?

  • Keep the rash-affected areas clean.
  • Cool compresses for rashes on the skin
  • Use an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce the symptoms of the syndrome
  • Use moistening eye drops throughout the day if your eye becomes dry,

What are the treatment options for RHS?

Prompt treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome can lessen pain and reduce the risk of long-term difficulties. Treatment options may include:

  • Antiviral pills – Medications such as acyclovir , famciclovir or valacyclovir help fight the chickenpox virus.
  • Corticosteroids –  A short regimen of high-dose prednisone boosts the impact of antiviral medication in Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
  • Anti-anxiety medications – Medicines such as Valium can help reduce the symptoms of vertigo.
  • Pain relievers –  The pain related to Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be intense . A prescription drug that reduces the pain may be required.

Conclusion

Ramsay Hunt syndrome can affect both men and women. If you get a rash on your face and also start noticing symptoms such as weakness in your facial muscle, consult your physician as soon as you can. Timely treatment can make sure that you don’t experience any complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Ramsay Hunt syndrome contagious?

No. RHS is not a contagious disease.  But, if you have never had chickenpox or were never vaccinated, then you are prone to get infected with chickenpox from close contact with an open rash on an individual with Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

How does one recover from Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

Quick treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome will decrease the risk of complications that include permanent facial muscle weakness and deafness.

Why does Shingles Virus get reactivated leading to Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

If an individual is immunosuppressed, he or she is less able to fight against infection, and there can be a chance of reactivation of viruses like VZV.

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