Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS) is a problem moving the muscles on one side of the face. It also results in a rash around the ear or mouth. It is not common.
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RHS is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). The virus is the same one that causes chickenpox and shingles . It stays in the body even after the illness has passed. In some people, it can reactivate and cause RHS.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Having shingles or a history of chickenpox
- A weakened immune system
- Having other family members who have had shingles
Problems may be:
- Painful, one-sided red rash in the ear, mouth, or on the tongue
- Problems moving one side of the face, with or without a rash
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Loss of taste
- Problems hearing
- Ringing in the ear
- Nausea or vomiting
- A feeling of spinning while standing still
- Eyes that move without control
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Lab tests may need to be done to confirm a diagnosis that is not certain.
The goal of treatment is to ease discomfort and quicken recovery. Choices are:
- Antiviral medicine to shorten the length of time of the infection if taken early
- Corticosteroids to ease inflammation
- Benzodiazepines to ease the feeling of spinning
- Pain medicine
This risk of this problem may be lowered by getting the herpes zoster vaccine.
National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov
National Organization for Rare Disorders https://rarediseases.org
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation http://www.cnsfederation.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
About shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/herpes-zoster. Accessed January 12, 2021.
NINDS herpes zoster oticus information page. National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Herpes-Zoster-Oticus-Information-Page. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Schmader K. Herpes Zoster. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Aug 7;169(3):ITC19-ITC31.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 12/2020
- Update Date: 01/12/2021