Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 2
Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2 is caused by reactivation of varicella zoster virus in the geniculate ganglion. Patient often presents with facial nerve paralysis leading to facial droop, dry eyes, dry mouth, and hearing loss. Diagnosis is largely clinical, but PCR of direct immunofluorescent assay analysis of the vesicular fluid can be helpful in determining the diagnosis. Treatment includes methylprednisolone and acyclovir to achieve high rate of complete recovery.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2 is also known as herpes zoster oticus because reactivation of varicella zoster virus in the geniculate ganglion is what causes this disease. The geniculate ganglion is a nerve cell bundle for facial nerve (CN VII); the inflammatory response caused by reactivated virus can lead to lower motor neuron lesions of the facial nerve, leading to paralysis of facial muscles that can cause dry mouth, dry eyes, and hearing loss.
|Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 2|
|ICD-10||B02.2 (ILDS B02.270_, G53.0|
Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2 is also known as herpes zoster oticus because reactivation of varicella zoster virus in the geniculate ganglion is what causes this disease. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome type 2 can account for 12% of all facial palsies and has a worse prognosis when compared to Bell’s palsy. The geniculate ganglion is a nerve cell bundle for facial nerve (CN VII), the inflammatory response caused by reactivated virus can lead to lower motor neuron lesions of the facial nerve, leading to paralysis of facial muscles that can cause dry mouth, eyes and hearing loss.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2 is caused by reactivation of varicella zoster virus in the geniculate ganglion.
Immunocompromised state, lack of varicella vaccination.
Reactivation of varicella-zoster virus involving the geniculate ganglion is the main cause of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 2. There are three theories on the pathophysiology of the polyneuropathy nature of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. The hearing loss and vertigo are attributed to the close proximity of Vestibulocochlear nerve (CN VIII) to Facial nerve (CN VII) at the cerebellopontine angle. Alternatively, the virus could travel via vasa vasorum to nearby cranial nerves. Finally, varicella-zoster virus could spread anterograde through the intersynaptic transmission of the brainstem reflex pathway.
Varicella vaccination with 2 doses of varicella vaccine 4 to 8 weeks apart. If previously vaccinated, the second dose should be 4 weeks after the initial injection.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 2 can be diagnosed based on clinical features. However, in ambiguous cases, PCR or direct immunofluorescent assay of vesicular fluid can help with the diagnosis. Laboratory studies such as WBC count, ESR, and electrolytes should be obtained to distinguish infectious versus inflammatory etiologies.
Patients often complain of severe otalgia with painful blisters on face around ear, mouth, or tongue. Other symptoms include vertigo, nausea, vomiting, hearing loss, hyperacusis, tinnitus, eye pain and lacrimation.
Vesicular exanthema on the external auditory canal, concha and or pinna. Dry eyes with possible lower cornea epithelium damage due to incomplete closure of eyelids.
- Sensorineural hearing loss and paralysis of facial nerve
- Inability to raise ipsilateral eyebrows
- Inability to close ipsilateral eye, leading to drying and irritation of cornea.
The degree of nerve palsy can be graded based on House-Brackmann facial nerve grading scale.
|House-Brackmann Facial Nerve Grading Scale|
|Grade II||Mild Dysfunction|
|Grade III||Moderate Dysfunction|
|Grade IV||Moderately Severe dysfunction|
|Grade V||Severe Dysfunction|
|Grade VI||Total Paralysis|
- severe otalgia with painful blisters on face around ear, mouth, or tongue
- hearing loss
- eye pain and lacrimation
Physical examination: vesicular exanthema on the external auditory canal, concha and or pinna; dry eyes with possible lower cornea epithelium damage due to incomplete closure of eyelids.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome type 2 can usually be diagnosed based on clinical features. However, for suspected cases with unclear presentation, varicella zoster virus can be isolated from vesicular fluid.
Tear culture PCR can have positive varicella zoster virus. However, 25-35% of patients with Bell palsy can have false positive varicellar zoster virus detected in tears.
If central nervous system complications such as meningitis, ventriculitis or meningoencephalitis are suspected, prompt lumbar puncture with spinal fluid analysis and imaging (CT head) are recommended.
WBC count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and serum electrolytes to differentiate infectious and inflammation etiologies.
Direct immunofluorescence assay against varicella zoster antigen has been shown with sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 99%.
- Bell Palsy
- Postherpetic neuralgia
- Temporomandibular joint pain dysfunction syndrome
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
- Persistent idiopathic facial pain
Prompt diagnosis and initiation of steroids and antiviral are the current recommendations.
Early diagnosis and early initiation of steroids and antivirals are key to complete recovery. Retrospective studies have shown that when treatment is initiated within 3 days, complete resolution of facial nerve paralysis for 70% of the patients. However, when therapies start 7 days after symptom onset, only 30% of the patients achieve complete resolution of facial paralysis using the House–Brackmann score to grade the degree of nerve damage in a facial nerve palsy.
However, no effective treatment has been identified for hearing loss.
Vertigo can be treated with diazepam.
Oral corticosteroids and acyclovirs are recommended for treatment of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. In addition, carbamazepine can be used as a vestibular suppressant to alleviate the symptoms.
Medical follow up
Monitor degree of facial nerve damage using the House–Brackmann score. From initiation of medical therapy, follow-up on patients in 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months.
If lagophthalmos persists and corneal damage is not amenable to medical management, patients could seek surgical treatments such as tarsorrhaphy, gold weight implantation, or and horizontal lid tightening (e.g., lateral tarsal strip).
Long term facial nerve damage leading to hearing loss and facial paralysis. Patients could also develop synkinesia, or abnormal movement with voluntary facial movements. Up to 45% of the patients with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can experience synkinesia during recovery and can be predicted by having severe facial weakness as measured by electroneurography.
In addition, patients could develop postherpetic neuralgia, unresolved facial paralysis, or herpes zoster encephalitis.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome cause more server symptoms compared to Bell Palsy and has a worst prognosis. The degree of facial nerve paralysis resolution can be predicted by severity of initial paralysis. Studies show the rate of complete resolution to range from 10-22% to 66%.
Sequelae of Ramsay Hunt include permanent unilateral facial nerve paralysis, polycranial neuropathy, hearing loss, vertigo, and incomplete eye closure with dry eyes.
Patients without hypertension, diabetes and with a initial House-Brackann grade II or better presentation have higher chance of complete recovery (84.6%).
National Organization of Rare Disorders
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