What is it?

Geniculate herpes zoster occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. In addition to the painful shingles rash, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox clears up, the virus still lives in your nerves. Years later, it may reactivate. When it does, it can affect your facial nerves.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Ramsey hunt syndrome
- Herpes zoster oticus

Signs & symptoms

The two main signs and symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are:
* A painful red rash with fluid-filled blisters on, in and around one ear
* Facial weakness or paralysis on the same side as the affected ear

Usually, the rash and the facial paralysis occur at the same time. Sometimes one can happen before the other. Other times, the rash never occurs.
If you have Ramsay Hunt syndrome, you might also experience:
* Ear pain
* Hearing loss
* Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
* Difficulty closing one eye
* A sensation of spinning or moving (vertigo)
* A change in taste perception or loss of taste
* Dry mouth and eyes


Doctors often can identify Ramsay Hunt syndrome based on medical history, a physical exam, and the disorder's distinctive signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor might take a sample of fluid from one of the rash blisters in your ear for testing.


Prompt treatment of Ramsay Hunt syndrome can ease pain and decrease the risk of long-term complications. Medications may include:
* Antiviral drugs- Medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) often help combat the chickenpox virus.
* Corticosteroids- A short regimen of high-dose prednisone appears to boost the effect of antiviral drugs in Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
* Anti-anxiety medications- Drugs such as diazepam (Valium) can help relieve vertigo.
* Pain relievers- The pain associated with Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be severe. Prescription pain medications may be needed.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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