A mother who has been left unable to eat properly or even smile after being misdiagnosed is calling for more awareness.

Deborah Lack, from Shenley, was left with facial paralysis after doctors misdiagnosed her with Bell’s palsy.

She in fact had Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS). The symptoms can be similar but RHS is a form of shingles which attacks the facial nerve.

It was in May 2013 when Ms Lack, 37, said she was suddenly unable to close her eyes and her mouth became numb. She had also been suffering with migraines and earache. When she went to the doctors, they told her she had Bell’s palsy and they sent her home with a low dose of steroids.

Borehamwood Times:

Ms Lack before her shingles attack

A few days after her visit to the doctors, Ms Lack developed a rash on her face.

It was three months later, when she visited an ENT specialist, that Ms Lack was told that she actually had RHS.

Ms Lack, a dancer, has been forced to give up her hobby and relies on Botox injections to help relax the affected side of her face.

She said: “I closed the dance school I’d built over 13 years because I am no longer able to teach. I have been on antidepressants since it happened. I still don’t have much facial movement on one side.

“I dribble and can’t eat or smile properly. It is like your skin has been pulled tight all the time. It’s really frustrating knowing that if I had been given the right medication in time I might have made a better recovery.”

Facial paralysis affects around 100,000 people a year in the UK but RHS is frequently being misdiagnosed according to the charity Facial Palsy UK.

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This week, the charity and Ms Lack have taken part in an awareness week to encourage people to know the signs and to ensure they receive the right medication in time.

Consultant, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and facial paralysis expert, Katerina Anesti, says: “Ramsey Hunt syndrome may be mistaken for Bell’s palsy, especially as the characteristic rash on the face or inside the mouth is not always present.

“Up to a third of seemingly Bell’s palsy cases are misdiagnosed, which means that patients are missing the antiviral treatments that could help their recovery.”

For the best chance of a full recovery, people with Ramsay Hunt syndrome should be prescribed antivirals and a course of steroids within 72 hours.

For more information visit www.facialpalsy.org.uk