What is RHS?

In its most common usage, the term Ramsay Hunt syndrome refers to a reactivation of the dormant VZV in the geniculate ganglion with associated unilateral facial paralysis and other known symptoms. It is a complication of shingles, and results in facial paralysis or facial weakness (due to trauma to the 7th cranial nerve) and, usually, lesions of the skin similar to those seen with chickenpox. Other common symptoms are severe pain (on the face, head and in or around the ear), hearing loss, tinnitis and dizziness.

It is classed as a rare 'disease' and is believed to be even more rare in children. The immunocompromised and the elderly are more likely to develop RHS and it affects both sexes equally. However, any factor that impairs the immune system can leave a person who harbours the varicella zoster virus vulnerable to Ramsay Hunt syndrome. It is not contagious in the sense that the syndrome itself can be transmitted from one person to another, but a person with no immunity to chickenpox can contract chickenpox by transmission of the virus through contact with open skin lesions.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a much more serious illness than Bell's Palsy (the most common form of facial paralysis) and requires immediate medical attention. Many researchers believe that Bell's Palsy is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1, which is not a causative factor of Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Shingles Vesicles in the Ear