Herpes Zoster Oticus

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What is herpes zoster oticus?

Herpes zoster oticus, also known as Ramsay Hunt Syndrome or Ramsay Hunt Syndrome type II, is a common complication of shingles. Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus.

Herpes zoster oticus is caused by the spread of the varicella-zoster virus to facial nerves. It is characterized by:

  • Intense ear pain
  • A rash around the ear, mouth, face, neck, and scalp
  • Paralysis of facial nerves

Other symptoms may include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Vertigo (abnormal sensation of movement)
  • Tinnitus (abnormal sounds)
  • Loss of taste
  • Dry mouth and eyes 

Some cases do not require treatment. When treatment is needed, antiviral drugs or corticosteroids may be prescribed. Vertigo may be treated with the drug diazepam (Valium).

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with herpes zoster oticus?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about herpes zoster oticus and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with herpes zoster oticus at Clinicaltrials.gov.

Where can I find more information about herpes zoster oticus?

Information may be available from the following resources:

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Phone: 800-241-1044

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