UC San Diego Health Experts Available to Discuss Shingles, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has developed rare complications due to a months-long shingles infection, including encephalitis (brain inflammation) and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome occurs when shingles infects cranial nerves, including the auditory, vestibular and facial nerves, which can lead to hearing loss, severe dizziness and facial paralysis on the affected side.

Approximately five out of every 100,000 people develop Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a complication of the shingles virus, according to the National Organization of Rare Disorders.

Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus. A reactivation of the chickenpox virus, shingles is a painful rash that usually involves one side of the body, often the trunk or less commonly an arm, leg, or as in Feinstein’s case, a region of the face. This painful condition can last for several weeks and occasionally spreads to other parts of the body. The most common side effect of shingles is nerve pain, which can last for months to years after the rash has subsided.

About 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, with an estimated one million infections annually. Anyone who was previously infected with chicken pox can get shingles, although the risk of infection and complications rises in older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends adults ages 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease.

UC San Diego Health experts are available to discuss how shingles can develop into Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and treatments available, as well as the importance of the shingles vaccination to prevent infection.

  • Quyen Nguyen MD, professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine and otolaryngologist at UC San Diego Health
  • Jacqueline Greene MD, assistant professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine and otolaryngologist at UC San Diego Health

# # #