Medical Q&As

Ramsey Hunt Syndrome - explain?

My father has just been told he has Ramsey Hunt syndrome. Could you please give me some information on this?

Ramsey Hunt syndrome is due to herpes zoster infection of the geniculate ganglion, which is a crucial component of the facial nerve. It can be considered to be a form of shingles. The facial nerve controls the muscles of facial expression and the herpetic infection results in facial paralysis. Ramsey Hunt syndrome can easily be diagnosed incorrectly as Bellís palsy. The primary symptom that makes a diagnosis of Ramsey Hunt syndrome likely is the appearance of blisters in the ear. The blisters can appear prior to or after the onset of facial paralysis. They can be expected to last 2 to 5 weeks and can be quite painful. The pain can continue after the blisters have disappeared just like the post herpetic neuralgia that we associate with shingles. Blisters are often the only clearly visible symptom that identifies Ramsay Hunt. Unlike Bell's palsy, Ramsey Hunt syndrome can also affect the auditory nerve resulting in hearing loss. This should not occur with Bells palsy, and is an important clue in distinguishing one condition from the other. In some cases hearing loss continues after facial muscle function returns.