Ramsay Hunt syndrome is an infection of the facial and auditory nerves that causes facial paralysis, hearing problems, vertigo, and the appearance of red spots or blisters around the ear.
This disease, also known as herpes zoster of the ear, is caused by the herpes zoster virus, responsible for chickenpox, which lies dormant in a ganglion of the facial nerve and which in immunosuppressed people, diabetics, children or the elderly, has a tendency to reactivate.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is not contagious, however, the herpes zoster virus that can be found in the blisters present near the ear, can be transmitted, and can cause chicken pox in people who have not previously had the infection. Learn how to identify the symptoms of chickenpox.
The main symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are:
- Facial paralysis, which causes asymmetry of the face;
- Intense earache;
- Difficulty speaking;
- Dry eyes;
- Taste changes.
At the beginning of the manifestation of the disease, small blisters filled with liquid may form in the external ear and in the auditory canal, which can also form on the tongue and/or on the roof of the mouth.
Hearing loss can be permanent, and vertigo can last from a few days to several weeks.
The diagnosis of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is usually made by an otolaryngologist or a neurologist, based on the presenting symptoms, along with an ear examination.
Other tests, such as the Schirmer test, to assess tearing, or the gustometry test, to assess taste, can also be performed. Some laboratory tests, such as PCR, can also be done to detect the presence of the virus.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused by the herpes zoster virus, which causes chicken pox and shingles, which lies dormant in a ganglion of the facial nerve.
The risk of developing this disease is greater in immunosuppressed people, diabetics, children or the elderly, who have already suffered from chickenpox.
The treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is done with antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir or famciclovir, and corticoids, such as prednisone, for example.
In addition, the doctor may also recommend the use of analgesic drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and anticonvulsants to relieve pain, and antihistamines to reduce symptoms of vertigo and lubricating eye drops to prevent eye dryness, if the person has difficulty closing the eye.
Surgical intervention may be important when there is compression of the facial nerve, and may relieve the paralysis. Speech therapy helps to minimize the effects of infection on hearing and paralysis of facial muscles.