Shingles In The Ear - Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Shingles, also known as Herpes zoster, is a painful condition that is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Shingles involves the nerve pathways in the area affected, and is characterized by skin blisters in the early stages of the infection. Some people also subsequently experience strange nerve sensations such as burning, itching, stabbing, numbness or tingling. And while the typical course of a shingles infection lasts two to three weeks, some people may develop Post-Herpetic Neuralgia, nerve pain that lasts long after the blisters have disappeared.
Shingles usually occurs on the chest, face, back, leg or rear. A less common occurence is Herpes zoster oticus, or shingles in the ear. Known as Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, the condition is characterized by intense ear pain, a rash around the ear, mouth, face, neck, and scalp, and paralysis of facial nerves. Other symptoms may include hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus. The tongue may lose taste sensation; dry mouth and eyes may also occur.
Unfortunately, some people experience long-term complications from Herpes zoster oticus. They may suffer a permanent hearing loss or facial paralysis. Vertigo may last for days or even weeks. Treatment may include medications such as antiviral drugs or corticosteroids.
More than 66% of the people who develop herpes zoster are over the age of fifty; about five percent of the cases occur in children under the age of 15. Over a half of a million Americans will develop herpes zoster this year. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid developing shingles. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people 60 years old be vaccinated with Zostavax to prevent shingles. This is a one-time vaccination. In a clinical trial involving thousands of adults 60 years old or older, Zostavax reduced the risk of shingles by about half (51%) and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67%. While the vaccine was most effective in people 60-69 years old it also provided some protection for older groups.