Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Genital herpes virus infection

Definition of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

A herpes virus infection of the geniculate nerve ganglion that causes paralysis of the facial muscles on the same side of the face as the infection. The geniculate ganglion is a sensory ganglion associated with the VIIth cranial nerve.

The Ramsay Hunt syndrome is usually associated with a rash and blisters.

There are three variations or types of Ramsay Hunt syndromes, including:

  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome I
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome II
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome III

What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome? What causes it?

  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome (also termed Hunt's Syndrome and herpes zoster oticus) is a herpes zoster virus infection of the geniculate ganglion of the facial nerve.
  • It is caused by reactivation of herpes zoster virus that has previously caused chickenpox in the patient.
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome results in paralysis of the facial muscles on the same side of the face as the infection. So, the virus infects the facial nerve that normally controls the muscles on one side of the face.
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome is typically associated with a red rash and blisters (inflamed vesicles or tiny water-filled sacks in the skin) in or around the ear and eardrum and sometimes on the roof of the mouth or tongue.

What are the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

The classic symptom that clinically distinguishes Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a red painful rash associated with blisters in the ears and facial paralysis (for example, eyelid or mouth) on one side of the face. Other symptoms are: 

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2016

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