Justin Bieber’s face paralysis — what is Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

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Justin Bieber shocked fans on Friday after he revealed that half of his face had become paralyzed.

The 28-year-old pop star shared via social media on Friday that he’d been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a rare condition caused by a virus that “attacks” the nerves in his face, he explained.

The right side of his face was immovable as he spoke, slowly, and blinked only from the left.

“This is pretty serious, as you can see,” he told fans in the video announcement, adding that the issue “has caused my face to have paralysis.”

The “Honest” singer added that his treatment for Ramsay Hunt syndrome has included facial exercises, to help rebuild the nerves and muscles in his face.

His message comes following fan speculation over recent tour cancellations. “I’m physically, obviously, not capable of doing them,” he said of the postponed shows.

Here’s more about the virus that told Bieber he’s “got to slow down.”

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber revealed Friday that he was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a condition caused by a virus that “attacks” the nerves in his face.
justinbieber/Instagram

What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a rare neurological disorder characterized by facial palsy, or paralysis, often accompanied by a rash affecting the ear or mouth. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, an estimated five out of every 100,000 people in the US will develop RHS annually.

The syndrome, first described in 1907 by Dr. James Ramsay Hunt, is caused by an infection of the varicella-zoster virus — the same one that causes chickenpox and shingles, which means anyone who has suffered either of those illnesses could also come down with RHS.

What are the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

Most RHS cases result in some degree of facial palsy, as well as a blistering, often painful rash that affects the outer area of the ear and canal — though both symptoms do not necessarily present in all cases, nor in tandem. In some, only facial paralysis occurs, requiring a blood test to confirm the presence of VZV. In others, the visible inflammation may also spread to the patient’s soft palate and throat. Other notable side effects include tinnitus, ear pain, and some hearing loss and, more rarely, amplified hearing, vertigo, nausea, loss of taste, dry mouth and dry eyes.

What causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

The virus can remain dormant for decades in those who have already had chickenpox as a child. Reactivation of VZV in adults can lead to both shingles and RHS — though the reason why one or the other manifests is not known, according to the NORD.

Is Ramsay Hunt syndrome treatable?

RHS is considered generally treatable if caught within three days of symptom onset, using antiviral medications such as acyclovir or famciclovir, alongside anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Unfortunately for some, hearing loss and paralysis could become permanent.

Other drugs may be used to manage uncomfortable side effects, such as vertigo suppressants or neuropathic pain reducers.

Additional care must also be taken for the eye that will not shut due to paralysis. The use of artificial tears and lubricating ointments can prevent corneal injury.



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