Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, also known as Hunt’s syndrome occurs owing to a shingle outbreak, caused by herpes zoster oticus virus that usually affects the facial nerve closer to either one of the ears. Apart from painful shingles, this diseased condition can also lead to facial paralysis or hearing loss in the affected ear.
This syndrome can also happen due to the general varicella-zoster virus that causes chicken pox. Even after years of recovery from chicken pox, quite often the virus still remains in an inactive state in the nerves. This virus can get reactivated and result in paralysis of the facial muscles on the same side of the face as that of the infection or cause shingles ultimately leading to Hunt syndrome.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome often occurs in people previously infected by chicken pox. The reactivation of the varicella virus causes shingles, an infection characterized by fluid-filled blisters and rashes. Although both chicken pox and hunt's syndrome have characteristic rashes, the one occurring due to shingles happen closer to the facial nerves near the ear. Despite the fact, that Ramsay hunt syndrome isn't contagious, it still suggests the presence of the shingles virus, i.e. the herpes zoster virus. So, if a person comes in close contact of this virus, who haven’t had any previous infection can ultimately get chicken pox or shingles.
The common causative factors that increase the risk of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome include:
- Older than 60
- Previously had chicken pox
- Having a weak or compromised immune system
The most characteristic symptom of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is the presence of shingles rash in the form of red, pus-filled blister, near one or both ears. This rash can often lead to facial paralysis near the affected part wherein the muscles of the face may feel harder or impossible to control, as if they’ve lost their strength and suppleness. Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in your affected ear
- Neck pain
- Loss of hearing
- Ringing or buzzing noise in the ear, also called tinnitus
- Slightly slurred speech
- Difficulty closing the eye on the affected side of the face
- Reduced sense of taste
- Dry mouth
- Dry eyes
If the condition is not treated on time, it can lead to:
- Damage of the eye, including eye pain and blurred vision
- Permanent loss of hearing
- Facial weakness
- Postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition wherein the nerve fibers are damaged
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing rashes and blisters or any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor right away. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup followed by acknowledging the patients past medical history, and conducts some a diagnostic process of sampling the fluid present inside one of the blisters.
The available treatment options mostly include medications to ease pain and inflammation and diminish the complications. These include:
Some natural remedies to reduce the rash and ease the pain and inflammation includes:
- Keeping the affected area clean and sanitized
- Application of cool, wet compress
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications
In case, the syndrome has led to dry eyes or prevents one from closing the eyes,
- Apply moisturizing eye drops or artificial tears to keep the eyes hydrated and prevent dryness