There are many different ailments that may impact your ears and facial nerves, and getting an accurate diagnosis is vital for accessing the right treatment. Here, we will take a closer look at Ramsay Hunt syndrome, and why seeking treatment for it is so important.
What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?
Occurring as the result of the same virus as chickenpox, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be the result of either chickenpox or shingles. Even if you have not had chickenpox for many years, the virus may still be present and can impact the nerves of your face after a bout of shingles. Due to the viral nature of this syndrome, seeking treatment as quickly as possible (preferable in under three days) is vital for lowering the likelihood of complications that could lead to permanent issues.
What are the symptoms?
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, check to see if you have the two main symptoms. These include a red and painful rash that is located in or around an ear – the rash is most likely to present with blisters filled with fluid. You may also encounter weakness in your face or even full paralysis on the side of your face with the rash. Some patients are diagnosed without the presence of a rash – so any muscle weakness should be thoroughly investigated, and if left untreated it can result in deafness.
Other signs of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
While a rash and facial weakness are the two most common signs, there are other symptoms you may experience such as ear pain and deafness, or tinnitus. If you experience vertigo or a chance in your taste buds, or a dry mouth and eyes with no obvious explanation, this is also worth reporting. Some patients also report having trouble with shutting one of their eyes.
If you are suffering from paralysis of your face, you should get in touch with your doctor.
Who is at risk?
This syndrome can impact any person who has previously had chickenpox, even if this was in childhood. An occurrence of Ramsay Hunt syndrome will commonly be found in adults who are over sixty years old. It is not generally contagious but can be a risk to people who have not had chickenpox or had a vaccine for this. Because of this, it is important to not touch people who fall under this category, as well as immunocompromised people, pregnant people, or small children.
How is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome diagnosed?
If not diagnosed and treated promptly, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause permanent deafness and facial paralysis, as well as possible eye damage and postherpetic neuralgia – otherwise known as nerve pain. To avoid this and be diagnosed, your doctor will look at your medical history and look for the main symptoms, as well as ask you about any other symptoms. In some cases, a fluid sample from a blister may be taken and tested to confirm the diagnosis.
What treatment is available?
Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be treated with antiviral medication and pain relief and in some cases corticosteroids. It is also important to keep your rash clean and well aired, using eye drops for dryness and eye weakness. With proper treatment, the symptoms should be temporary.
While Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be uncomfortable and upsetting, by seeking diagnosis and treatment, you can be back to normal soon and avoid any further complications. If you are concerned that you may be suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, see your GP – if necessary, they will be able to refer you to a specialist who can help you to feel better.