Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS) is a neurological disorder that causes facial paralysis. The Facial Paralysis is proud to host an RHS Awareness Week to educate patients about RHS. As part of our RHS Awareness Week initiative, let’s take a look at RHS, the condition’s symptoms and how RHS is treated.
What Causes RHS?
RHS occurs due to a shingles outbreak that impacts the facial nerve near one of the ears. In this instance, a shingles rash causes facial paralysis. It may also cause hearing loss in the affected ear.
The root cause of RHS is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Although a person may have been previously exposed to chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in his or her body. If the virus reactivates, it may affect an individual’s facial nerve, leading to RHS.
Children are typically given the chickenpox vaccine, which helps safeguard them against RHS. Meanwhile, some doctors recommend adults age 60 and older get the shingles vaccine to reduce the risk of RHS.
What Are the Symptoms of RHS?
The primary symptoms of RHS include a painful red rash on, in or around one ear. Or, RHS patients sometimes experience facial paralysis or weakness on the same side of the face as the affected ear.
Oftentimes, an ear rash and facial paralysis begin around the same time in RHS patients. In some instances, however, an ear rash occurs before facial paralysis. Rarely, an ear rash does not occur in RHS cases.
If an individual is dealing with RHS, he or she may also experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty closing one of the eyes
- Hearing loss
- Pain in the ears
- Dry eyes and/or mouth
- Loss of taste or change in taste perception
If an individual experiences one or more of the aforementioned RHS symptoms, it is essential to meet with a doctor. That way, an individual can treat his or her RHS symptoms appropriately.
RHS symptoms that go untreated may result in any of the following long-term health problems:
- Eye Damage: Facial paralysis associated with RHS sometimes makes it difficult to close the eyelid on the paralyzed side of the face. This may lead to cornea damage, as the eyelid cannot close completely to protect the cornea against dust, debris and other particles. Additionally, RHS may result in eye pain and blurred vision.
- Hearing Loss: Temporary hearing loss is a common symptom of RHS. But in certain instances, hearing loss associated with RHS may be permanent.
- Postherpetic Neuralgia: Postherpetic neuralgia refers to a condition caused by nerve fiber damage related to a shingles infection. It causes nerve pain that persists – even after other RHS symptoms have disappeared.
The sooner a person treats his or her RHS symptoms, the more likely it becomes that this individual can avoid any of the aforementioned problems.
How to Treat RHS Symptoms
Botox consists of a protein derived from botulinum toxin. It relaxes muscles in the face and prevents them from contracting. In doing so, Botox reduces tension and stops unwanted muscle movements in the face.
Neuromuscular retraining is performed by a physical therapist. It involves the use of different facial exercises to help an RHS patient improve his or her muscle strength and coordination. Neuromuscular retraining also helps an RHS patient enhance his or her ability to make natural facial movements, such as:
- Wrinkling the forehead
In addition to Botox and neuromuscular retraining, selective neurolysis is available to treat RHS symptoms. Developed by Dr. Azizzadeh, selective neurolysis is a revolutionary procedure that involves mapping out the facial nerves with intraoperative electromyography (EMG), as well as decreasing activity of the nerves that hamper a person’s ability to smile.
Selective neurolysis for RHS symptoms is typically performed at an outpatient surgery center. The risks and downtime associated with selective neurolysis are minimal in comparison to other facial nerve procedures. RHS patients may start to see the results of selective neurolysis as soon as the day after surgery, too.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for all RHS patients. Instead, it is crucial to work with an expert facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who performs a comprehensive evaluation prior to treatment. This allows an RHS patient to learn about all of his or her treatment options and plan accordingly.
Dr. Azizzadeh’s Approach to RHS
Dr. Babak Azizzadeh of The Facial Paralysis Institute tailors each RHS treatment to his patient. Dr. Azizzadeh’s goal is to help an RHS patient achieve long-lasting treatment results. He develops a personalized treatment program for each RHS patient that accounts for an individual’s symptoms and his or her treatment goals. Dr. Azizzadeh also explains all aspects of his treatment plan to his patient. He responds to any patient concerns or questions, and when a patient feels comfortable, will put his treatment plan into action.
As an RHS treatment plan progresses, Dr. Azizzadeh tracks his patient’s progress closely. Dr. Azizzadeh requests follow-up appointments with an RHS patient throughout the course of a treatment program. If necessary, Dr. Azizzadeh will modify his RHS treatment plan to help his patient achieve the optimal results.
Schedule an RHS Treatment Consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh Today
Dr. Azizzadeh is a globally recognized facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon with many years of experience. He helps RHS patients treat their symptoms, and ultimately, avoid long-term facial paralysis.
Dr. Azizzadeh is available to meet with an RHS patient, evaluate his or her symptoms and craft a personalized treatment program. Please call us today at (310) 657-2203 to schedule an RHS treatment consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh.