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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Herpes zoster oticus

Other Names for this Disease
  • Hunt syndrome (formerly)
  • Hunt's syndrome (formerly)
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2 (formerly)
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What is herpes zoster oticus?

How might herpes zoster oticus be treated?

What is herpes zoster oticus?

Herpes zoster oticus is a common complication of shingles, an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (which is the virus that also causes chickenpox). Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and the varicella-zoster virus becomes active again. Herpes zoster oticus is caused by the spread of the virus to facial nerves and can cause intense ear pain; a rash around the ear, mouth, face, neck, and scalp; and paralysis of the face. Other symptoms may include hearing loss, vertigo (feeling that the room is spinning), tinnitus (hearing abnormal sounds), loss of taste in the tongue, and dry mouth and eyes. Some cases of herpes zoster oticus do not require treatment, but when treatment is needed, pain medications, antiviral drugs or corticosteroids may be prescribed. Vertigo is sometimes treated with medication as well. The prognosis of herpes zoster oticus is typically good but in some cases, hearing loss or facial paralysis may be permanent.[1]
Last updated: 12/3/2010

How might herpes zoster oticus be treated?

Treatment for herpes zoster oticus typically includes anti-inflammatory drugs called steroids, which may reduce the inflammation of the nerves and help to ease the pain. Antiviral medications are usually prescribed, although whether antiviral medications are beneficial for treating this condition has not been confirmed. Strong pain medications may be prescribed if the pain continues. An eye patch may be recommended to prevent injury to the cornea (corneal abrasion) and damage to the eye if it does not close completely. Vertigo (feeling that the room is spinning) and dizziness may be treated with other medications.[2]
Last updated: 12/3/2010

  1. NINDS Herpes Zoster Oticus Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. February 14, 2007; Accessed 12/3/2010.
  2. David C. Dugdale, III. Ramsay Hunt syndrome. MedlinePlus. May 5, 2010; Accessed 12/3/2010.