What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is caused by the Herpes Zoster Virus. It occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. Among patients with complete facial palsy 51.4% recovered to grades I or Il.
Although the virus has “herpes” in its name, It’s not exactly the herpes virus that most people think about. It’s a related virus that causes chickenpox.
How does someone get Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?
A person gets the Herpes Zoster virus when they have chickenpox as a kid, then the virus lays dormant for decades until it’s reactivated due to age, stress, or anything else that can cause a weakened immune system
As far as we know, the reason the virus reactivates in the ear is pretty random—simply bad luck. Shingles can happen anywhere in the body, and when it happens in the ear it’s dreadful.
Most kids now get the Varicella vaccine (chickenpox vaccine), which means they most likely won’t have the dormant virus in their bodies when they’re older. However, some people can still get shingles even if they never had chickenpox. That’s why it’s important to vaccinate people who are older (over 50) or have immune problems.
The shingles vaccine is recommended for people aged over 50, or for those who have chronic illnesses that may interfere with the immune system (cancer, HIV, transplant patients, etc.)
What’s the difference between Bell’s Palsy and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?
Bell’s palsy is a random unexplained facial paralysis with no other symptoms. Ramsay Hunt causes major ear pain, facial paralysis, ear blisters, and even SUDDEN DEAFNESS on the side of the paralysis
Is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Temporary?
It can be, especially when treated in the first 3 days. I’ve had pretty good results with my RHS patients, but some studies show just a 50% rate of recovery from full paralysis.
If the paralysis is truly permanent, there is facial reanimation surgery that can restore some of the facial functions like closing the eye and getting a more symmetric smile.
Ronen Nazarian MD – Available, Affable, & Able
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