Shingles is an infection by the herpes zoster virus, which also causes chicken pox. This happens in people who have had chicken pox and the virus present in the nerve reactivates later on in life. Shingles causes a painful rash on one side of your body and can affect your ears. The virus infects the facial nerve (seventh nerve) which supplies the face muscles. This condition is also called Ramsay Hunt syndrome. This will result in a rash around your ears and facial paralysis, among other symptoms.
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This condition begins with a red and very painful rash on your eardrum. As per Mayo Clinic, blisters accompany it on your outer ear, ear canal, eardrum, mouth and neck. These blisters may ooze and exude a watery discharge.
The virus infects the facial nerve near the inner ear. This will result in weakness of the muscles around your eye and mouth. Your smile will be crooked and you will have difficulty closing your eye, according to National Institutes of Health. You will have changes in your taste sensation and a dry eye.
Infection and swelling of the inner ear structures will affect your balance and your hearing on the side where the rash is. Hearing loss is seen in 50% of sufferers. Sometimes the hearing loss may be permanent according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NINDS). You will have a spinning and rotating sensation called vertigo that lasts a few days to weeks. If you have shingles of the ear, you will hear ringing sounds. There will be excruciating pain deep within your ear. Pain usually comes a few hours before the rash.
You should see your doctor immediately if you have the above symptoms. If the treatment is started within three days, your recovery will be better.
Symptoms with Complications
The pain of shingles occurs due to damage to the nerve fibers. In some case the pain can last for months to years even after the rash and blisters go away. This is called post herpetic neuralgia.
A condition called synkinesis occurs during recovery if the nerve grows in the wrong areas as per Mayo Clinic. You may have tears while laughing and will blink while talking.
Occasionally there is headache, confusion and neck stiffness if the virus affects the nerves of your brain.