This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
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 in whom 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), nausea, vomiting, 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.
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