Health And Family

What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome? An explainer on Justin Bieber's facial paralysis

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome? An explainer on Justin Bieber's facial paralysis
In this file photo Canadian singer Justin Bieber arrives for YouTube Originals' "Justin Bieber: Seasons" premiere at the Regency Bruin Theatre in Los Angeles on January 27, 2020. Celine Dion, Justin Bieber and Margaret Atwood were among the Canadian celebrities who joined for a broadcast event Sunday to honor healthcare workers battling the coronavirus pandemic and raise money for food banks.
AFP/Lisa O'Connor

MANILA, Philippines — Singer Justin Bieber recently announced the cancellation of several shows after announcing he is suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which affects the nerves in the face and causes facial paralysis.

In a video announcing the news, Justin is seen unable to move the right side of his face — his eye not blinking, his nostril not flaring, and a part of his mouth not able to smile.

An article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry defines the syndrome as a "peripheral facial nerve palsy accompanied by an erythematous vesicular rash on the ear (zoster oticus) or in the mouth."

According to the United States' Mayo Clinic, herpes zoster oticus or Ramsay Hunt syndrome happens when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve one's ear, thus apart from a rash it can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss.

Some minor symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome include ear pain, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), vertigo, loss/change of taste, and dry mouth and eyes. Hearing loss and facial paralysis are commonly temporary, but permanent damage is still possible.

RELATED: Justin Bieber cancels several shows due to face paralysis diagnosis

The aforementoned Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry article says those with Ramsay Hunt syndrome have more severe facial paralysis than those with Bell's palsy, which has no rash symptoms, "at onset and are less likely to recover completely"

Connection with chickenpox

The Mayo Clinic also says that the virus that causes the syndrome, the varicella-zoster virus (VCV), is the same one that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox recovery, VCV stays in the body and sometimes reactivates thus causing the rash.

Older adults, those 60 and above, are more likely to experience Ramsay Hunt syndrome especially if they have history of chickenpox; it is very rare that children be diagnosed with the syndrome.

It is not contagious but VCV reactivation can cause people who have not contracted or been vaccinated against chickenpox to experience the rash, which can serious for adults and those with immune system issues.

If Ramsay Hunt syndrome infliction becomes complicated, it may lead to permanent facial muscle weakness and deafness. It is recommended to see a doctor as soon as a rash or facial paralysis is felt.

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