Ramsay Hunt syndrome

Alternative Names

Hunt syndrome; Herpes oticus

Definition of Ramsay Hunt syndrome

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a painful rash around the ear that occurs when the varicella zoster virus infects a nerve in the head.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The varicella zoster virus that causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome is the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella) and shingles.

Signs and tests

The doctor will usually make the diagnosis by looking for signs of weakness in the face and a blister-like (vesicular) rash.

Treatment

Strong anti-inflammatory drugs called steroids (such as prednisone) are usually prescribed for 5 – 7 days. Antiviral medications, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, can be given for 7 – 10 days, although the benefit of antiviral medications is uncertain.

Expectations (prognosis)

The more severe the damage, the longer it will take to recover, and the lower the chance that you will completely regain normal function. If there is not much damage to the nerve, then you should get better completely within a few weeks. If damage is more severe, you may not fully recover– even after several months.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/5/2010

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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