A DAD who was left unable to smile after being misdiagnosed with ear-ache instead of a rare form of shingles is calling for more awareness about the syndrome.

Steve Byles, 55, was left with facial paralysis in 2015 after he was diagnosed with a rare form of shingles called Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

The dad-of-two, who lives in Walton with wife Debbie, says doctors failed to recognise the shingles rash as being something more serious.

“In December 2015 I had been unwell for four days with chronic ear pain,” he said.

“When I pointed out a rash on my head and around my ear to the doctor he told me to take antibiotics and sent me away.

“The next day my face dropped like I had had a stroke and a paramedic said it could be a reaction to the antibiotics.”

It wasn’t until Steve went to a an NHS walk-in centre where a young doctor officially diagnosed him with Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

He was told his face may never recover fully.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

WRONG DIAGNOSIS: shortly after one side of Steve's face dropped  

He was given a course of antiviral drugs and discovered he would need steroids as well to make the treatment successful.

But 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.

Steve now travels to the Queen Victoria Hospital, at East Grinstead in West Sussex, for follow-up care after doing his own research to find a specialist.

He also has physiotherapy and Botox injections to allow his face to function more normally.

“I have been failed by the total lack of knowledge about this condition,” he said.

“I had to have a small platinum implant put into my eyelid to help me blink.

“Things like smiling or eating are basic everyday moves that our face makes, but when your face is paralysed these things are difficult.”

Research completed by the charity Facial Palsy UK, ahead of Facial Palsy Awareness Week, shows one in two people with Ramsay Hunt syndrome do not receive the correct treatment of antivirals within the critical 72-hour window.

Consultant plastic surgeon and charity founder Charles Nduka said: “Patients with Ramsay Hunt syndrome across the UK are suffering from delayed diagnosis, a lack of awareness of suitable treatments amongst some health professionals, and a poor appreciation of the psycho-social implications of losing the ability to smile and the use of one side of the face.

“Facial palsy is not a ‘cosmetic’ issue, it’s a functional problem affecting important activities such as eating, drinking and protecting the eye.”

The charity is calling for more awareness about Ramsay Hunt syndrome, earlier diagnosis and better after care for those affected, as part of Facial Palsy Awareness Week which starts on Monday.