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Herpes Zoster Oticus

Herpes zoster oticus, also called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome or Ramsay Hunt Syndrome type II, is a common complication of shingles. Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus. Herpes zoster oticus is caused by the spread of the varicella-zoster virus to facial nerves.

What are the Symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

The signs of Ramsay Hunt syndrome can vary from one person to the next. Keep in mind that not everyone with herpes zoster oticus develops a visible rash. Symptoms may include:

  • Fluid-filled blisters that form a painful rash on, in or near the ear and within the mouth

  • Decreased hearing on the affected side

  • Ringing in one ear

  • Loss or change in sense of taste

  • Weakness or loss of movement on the affected side of the face

  • One eye may not fully close

  • Food and beverages may run from the affected side of the mouth

  • Problems forming facial expressions

  • Vertigo (room spinning)


Some cases of herpes zoster oticus do not require treatment. When treatment is needed, medications such as antiviral drugs or corticosteroids may be prescribed.


Generally, the prognosis of herpes zoster oticus is good. However, in some cases, hearing loss may be permanent. Vertigo may last for days or weeks. Facial paralysis may be temporary or permanent.

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