Ramsay Hunt syndrome can occur in patients who contract shingles from the varicella zoster virus. In Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a case of shingles affects facial nerves surrounding the ear. I
It can cause hearing loss and some paralysis in the face.
At higher risk for Ramsay Hunt syndrome are people who have had chickenpox, and those over 60. It is especially serious for newborns, pregnant women, or individuals with compromised immune systems. If a person contracts shingles or Ramsay Hunt syndrome, it is also important to avoid contact with such persons, along with those who have not had chickenpox nor received a vaccination for it.
Telltale symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are weakness or paralysis on one side of the face and a blistering rash in the area of an ear. The patient may also experience ringing in the ear, vertigo, inability to taste, pain in the ear, and difficulty closing the eye. There can be a problem with eating due to the weakness in the face, and there may be an appearance of “drooping” in the face.
Diagnosis can usually be made from observing signs and symptoms in a patient. However, the doctor may take fluid from a blister for testing to definitively diagnose Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
Possible complications arising from Ramsay Hunt syndrome are blurry vision and pain in the eye, hearing loss, weakness in facial muscles, or neuralgia. Neuralgia can be a long lasting, debilitating nerve pain that occurs when the fibers in the nerves have become damaged.
Complications and further pain from Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be best avoided if treatment begins within a week of its discovery. Narcotic pain relievers are often prescribed, since the pain from this condition can be severe. Valium or other anti-anxiety medications may be needed to address problems with vertigo. Drugs such as valacyclovir, acyclovir or other antivirals are usually given, sometimes with high dosage corticosteroids to help boost their effect.
The patient suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome will feel better if the area of the rash is kept clean, and this will also minimize the chance of infection. Cool, moist cloths applied to the area can assist in easing pain. Since the eye and vision may be affected, eye drops may be used. Ointment should be applied at night and the eye taped shut, or an eye patch can be used.
It is important that an individual with shingles be carefully monitored for signs of Ramsay Hunt syndrome so that treatment can begin quickly and complications can be avoided. It can save the patient’s hearing and keep them from years of pain.