Causes of Shingles in Ear
If you have chicken pox as a child, the varicella-zoster virus can remain in your body manifesting as shingles when you’re an adult. Shingles is similar to chicken pox in that it causes a rash with fluid-filled blisters, but it tends to be more painful.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS) is also caused by the varicella-zoster virus and refers specifically to an outbreak of shingles that attacks the facial nerves near one of your ears.
It is not known why the virus suddenly reoccurs, in some cases after decades, but studies have shown that stress can be a trigger as it can weaken your immune system.
Symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome
The symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are primarily a red rash with blisters on the face, in the ear and in the mouth and/or weakness or paralysis (palsy) on the same side of the face as the rash. There is no set timescale for what develops first, if at all.
Given that Ramsay Hunt syndrome is located around the ear (usually only on one side) you may also suffer from the following:
The facial paralysis can make it hard to close one eye and smile and your face may feel weak or stiff. In more serious cases, your face may droop and your speech may be slurred. You may also suffer from a dry mouth and eyes; feel nauseous and/or vomit; and experience changes to the way you taste food and drink.
Treatment for Ramsay Hunt syndrome
Treatment for Ramsay Hunt syndrome will focus on easing all the symptoms associated with the virus.
The first step is to head to your GP who will diagnose Ramsay Hunt syndrome based on your medical history, the symptoms presented and maybe by taking a sample from one of blisters.
The earlier you can get to the doctor to prescribe antiviral medications and maybe steroids, the better chance you have of making a full recovery.
You may also be given painkillers, eye drops to keep your eye lubricated, and medication to ease the vertigo/nausea.
At home you can ease the pain of the rash with a cold, wet compress and use topical applications to ease the itchiness and aid healing.
The recovery time for shingles in ear
To get the best chance of a full recovery from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, you need to see a doctor within three days. The longer you wait to seek treatment or the more severe your symptoms, then the odds of a full recovery drop.
In the case of a mild paralysis of the face you should be back to normal within a few weeks.
The recovery process is similar to that of Bell’s palsy, although given the severity of RHS it can take a bit longer.
For the majority of people with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, the facial paralysis and hearing loss is temporary if they seek early medical intervention.
People may ask:
Yes, in as much as they both result in facial paralysis that occurs quite rapidly. However, Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a shingles-related palsy, so it is also accompanied by a painful rash of blisters that affects the face and ear. Recovery from RHS is also longer and less successful than that of Bell’s palsy.
Yes, the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can be permanent, but for the majority of people the effects are temporary if they seek prompt medical attention.
Blisters on the ear and face can take approximately 10 days to two weeks to scab over but the symptoms of the virus can last three-five weeks depending on the individual affected and the treatment success.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is not contagious, but care should be taken to avoid physical contact with people who haven’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for chickenpox until your rash blisters have scabbed or healed. People with weak immune systems, newborn babies and expectant mothers can also be seriously affected by the shingles virus.
A rash of liquid-filled blisters is normally the first sign of shingles.
While the blisters and rash may improve if left untreated, the associated symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (most notably facial paralysis and hearing loss) are likely to remain or worsen. Seek medical advice as soon as possible to improve the success of the antiviral treatment.
Stress can be a trigger for the shingles virus as studies have shown stress can lead to a weakened immune system.