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Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

(Herpes Zoster Oticus)


Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS) is a problem moving the muscles on one side of the face. It also results in a rash around the ear or mouth. It is not a common health issue.

Facial Nerve Innervation .

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RHS is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). The virus is the same one that causes chickenpox and shingles. It stays in the body even after the illness has passed. In some people, it can reactivate and cause RHS.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Having shingles or a history of chickenpox
  • A weakened immune system
  • Having other family members who have had shingles


A person with RHS may have:

  • Painful, one-sided red rash in the ear, mouth, or on the tongue
  • Problems moving one side of the face, with or without a rash
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Loss of taste
  • Problems hearing
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A feeling of spinning while standing still
  • Eyes that move without control


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Lab tests may need to be done to confirm the diagnosis.


The goals of treatment are to ease discomfort and quicken recovery. Choices are:

  • Antiviral medicine to shorten the length of time of the infection if taken early
  • Corticosteroids to ease swelling
  • Benzodiazepines to ease the feeling of spinning
  • Pain medicine


This risk of this problem may be lowered by getting the herpes zoster vaccine.





  • About shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html.
  • Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/herpes-zoster.
  • Herpes zoster oticus. National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/herpes-zoster-oticus.
  • Schmader, K. Herpes Zoster. Ann Intern Med, 2018; 169 (3): ITC19-ITC31.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.