Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: What Is It, and How Is It Treated?
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a medical condition that can cause facial weakness or paralysis, a rash in and around the ear, and other physical symptoms. The condition is treatable, and those who understand its symptoms are well-equipped to mitigate these issues before they cause long-lasting health problems.
What Is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome? Here’s A Closer Look
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is associated with shingles, a viral infection that can cause a rash. With Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve, near one of the ears. In this instance, the facial nerve and associated structures are damaged, and various symptoms can occur.
In addition to facial weakness or paralysis and a rash in and around the affected ear, common Ramsay Hunt syndrome symptoms include vertigo, hearing loss, and ringing and/or pain in the ears. It can also make it difficult for a patient to close both eyes and result in loss of taste or a change in taste perception.
If left untreated, the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome will not subside on their own. Instead, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can contribute to cornea damage, to the point where a patient can no longer protect the cornea against dust, debris, and other particles and is susceptible to severe eye pain and blurred vision. Additionally, if a patient experiences temporary hearing loss due to Ramsay Hunt syndrome, this problem can become permanent. Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients are also prone to postherpetic neuralgia, a condition that can cause long-term damage to nerve fibers and skin.
How Do You Get Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?
Questions persist about what causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome, but research to date indicates that the condition is related to varicella zoster virus (VZV), i.e. the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. Typically, people experience Ramsay Hunt syndrome symptoms if inactive VZV in the body is reactivated. When this occurs, the virus can spread throughout the body and affect the facial nerve.
People who experience any symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome should seek immediate medical help. That way, people can undergo a full medical evaluation to determine if they are dealing with Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
How Is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Diagnosed?
To diagnose Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a doctor first evaluates a patient’s medical history and symptoms and conducts a physical exam. The doctor may also request a sample of fluid from any rash blisters on the patient’s ear.
Additional testing may be required based on a Ramsay Hunt syndrome patient’s symptoms and their severity. For instance, if a patient is experiencing hearing loss, testing can be used to examine the extent. Or, ear, nose, and throat (ENT) and other testing can be utilized to determine if other medical issues are contributing to a patient’s facial paralysis.
Following diagnosis, a personalized Ramsay Hunt syndrome treatment plan is developed. This plan accounts for a patient’s health and is designed to reduce or eliminate Ramsay Hunt syndrome symptoms going forward.
How Is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Treated?
Antiviral drugs, corticosteroids, and other medications can be prescribed to alleviate pain associated with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. The effectiveness of these medications varies.
Along with medication, lifestyle and home remedies may be recommended to help patients cope with Ramsay Hunt syndrome symptoms. For example, Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients may apply a cool, wet compress to relieve pain caused by a rash.
Other medical treatments for Ramsay Hunt syndrome include non-surgical and surgical options. Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients may benefit from Botox and/or neuromuscular retraining to treat their symptoms. Comparatively, patients may require selective neurolysis surgery to permanently correct their symptoms.
Botox involves the use of an injectable prescription to stop unwanted muscle movement in the face. The treatment has been shown to relieve tension in areas of the face that become hyperactive due to synkinesis.
Neuromuscular retraining requires Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients to learn and perform different facial muscle exercises. Over time, patients can use these exercises to strengthen their facial muscles and regain the ability to naturally frown, smile, and produce other facial expressions. These exercises can also help patients improve their ability to open and close the mouth and move the eyes.
Selective neurolysis is a revolutionary smile reanimation procedure developed by Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, a world-renowned facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. During selective neurolysis, Dr. Azizzadeh uses selective neurolysis to release the platysma muscle that pulls down the corner of a Ramsay Hunt syndrome patient’s mouth. This allows Dr. Azizzadeh to correct “mis-wiring” that otherwise hampers a patient’s ability to produce natural facial movements.
With selective neurolysis, the results become visible as soon as the day after surgery. Plus, selective neurolysis downtime and complications are minimal, and Dr. Azizzadeh does everything possible to help Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients achieve the best results from treatment.
Explore Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Treatment Options
Ramsay Hunt syndrome can restrict facial movement, which can make it tough for people to communicate with others. At the same time, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can negatively affect the facial appearance, and it can lead people to shy away from social activities. Ramsay Hunt syndrome symptoms only get worse over time, too. People may try to ignore the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, but if these symptoms are left untreated, they can cause serious health issues.
Dr. Azizzadeh of The Facial Paralysis Institute understands there is no one-size-fits-all solution to treat Ramsay Hunt syndrome. So, Dr. Azizzadeh offers multiple Ramsay Hunt syndrome treatment options, and he tailors each treatment to his patients. Dr. Azizzadeh also offers a free consultation, so he can evaluate a Ramsay Hunt syndrome patient and determine a safe, effective way to treat their symptoms. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, please contact us online or call us today at (310) 657-2203.