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.

How is Ramsay Hunt syndrome treated or prevented?

Treatment consists of antiviral agents (for example, acyclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir) for about one week, steroids (prednisone), and pain medications. Best results are reported when treatment protocols are started within three days after symptoms appear. Early treatment usually results in a better prognosis (see below). For children, the varicella vaccine can reduce the chance of getting chickenpox from which the syndrome comes (reactivation of the virus). However, once a person gets chickenpox, the person is susceptible to reactivation of the virus and thus can develop shingles and/or Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Fortunately, there is another vaccine, Zostavax, which is helpful in preventing viral reactivation. Consequently, shingles and Ramsay Hunt syndrome can be either prevented or their symptoms reduced if the vaccine is administered. Usually, this vaccine is given to individuals that have had chickenpox as children and are now age 60 or older. The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests the vaccine be routinely given to individuals aged 60 or older, as about 90% of the population has been exposed to chickenpox and about 20% of people that had chickenpox are likely to get shingles without the vaccine.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2015

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