The Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is caused when the varicella-zoster virus, which is already present in a person’s body in a latent state, gets activated when it encounters a trigger such as low immunity. The virus infects the seventh cranial nerve.
It manifests as a drooling face and blisters inside the ear or pinna (visible portion of the outer ear), similar to that presented by herpes. The treatment includes antiviral drugs for 5-10 days.
Dr Vinay Goyal, Director – Neurology, Medanta Institute of Neurosciences, Gurugram, says “Eighty% of the cases are completely recovered; however, 10% are incompletely recovered, and the other 10% may see permanent damage. Generally, it appears in people more than 25 years of age. People more susceptible to the condition involve the diabetic, immuno-compromised, HIV patients and patients on anti-cancer drugs.”
The drooling gives a clear indication of the disease but doctors do a physical examination of the ear for a firm diagnosis. A viral test is not usually needed. Dr Goyal adds that sometimes an MRI-brain is done to check for any extensive damage.
When asked what precautions one can take to avoid getting infected by this virus, Dr Goyal says, “No precautions are there,” it is an “unfortunate incident”.
There are other forms of facial paralysis, not just the Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Dr Goyal elaborates that in facial palsy, there is no viral manifestation. However, the hypothesis stands that facial palsy is also caused due to a viral infection but we do not know which virus it is.
Commenting on the prevalence of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, Dr Goyal reveals, “We do get cases of Bell’s Palsy sometimes, but Ramsay Hunt syndrome cases in Delhi-NCR are seen only once in a year or two. It is a very rare disease.”