Recently, Pop sensation Justin Bieber through his socials announced that his face is partially paralyzed by a viral condition called Ramsay Hunt syndrome. In a video posted on his Instagram account, the singer explained that the condition has left him unable to move half of his face. This has prompted him to postpone his upcoming events.

"Obviously, as you can probably see from my face, I have this syndrome called Ramsay Hunt syndrome and it is from this virus that attacks the nerve in my ear and my facial nerves and has caused my face to have paralysis," he said. "As you can see, this eye is not blinking," he continued. "I can't smile with this side of my face, this nostril will not move, so there is full paralysis in this side of my face."

So, what exactly is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, how is it diagnosed, and how is it treated? Let us take a closer look.

What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a neurological condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults. The virus can linger in your body for your entire life, even long after you have recovered from chickenpox, and reawaken to irritate and inflame the nerves in your face.

Reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus results in shingles and, in some cases, develops into Ramsay Hunt syndrome. The reason why the virus reactivates and affects the facial nerve in Ramsay Hunt syndrome is unknown.

Symptoms

The illness affects men and women equally and can result in:

  • Weakness on one side of the face that causes difficulty closing one eye, eating (food falls out of the weak corner of the mouth), making expressions, and making fine movements of the face, as well as facial droop and paralysis on one side of the face
  • Severe pain in the ear
  • Painful rash on the eardrum, ear canal, earlobe, tongue, and roof of the mouth on the side with the affected nerve
  • Hearing loss on one side
  • A sensation of things spinning (vertigo)
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Treatment

Steroids (such as prednisone) are commonly used to treat severe inflammation. Antiviral medications such as acyclovir and Val acyclovir may be administered.

If the pain persists after the use of steroids, powerful medications may be required. Wear an eye patch when you have a facial weakness to prevent harm to the cornea (corneal abrasion) and other eye damage if the eye does not close completely.
To keep their eyes from drying out, some people use a specific eye lubricant at night and artificial tears throughout the day.

If you have dizziness, your doctor may recommend additional medications.

Complications

Ramsay Hunt syndrome complications may include:

  • Permanent hearing loss and facial weakness. For most people, the hearing loss and facial paralysis caused by Ramsay Hunt syndrome are transitory. However, it has the potential to become permanent.
  • Eye damage. Ramsay Hunt syndrome may make it difficult to close the eyelids due to facial paralysis. This in turn may cause damage to the cornea, which protects the eye. This damage may cause eye pain and blurred vision.
  • Postherpetic neuralgia. This agonizing condition occurs when a shingles infection damages nerve fibres. The messages sent by these nerve fibres become confused and exaggerated, causing pain that may last long after other signs and symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome have faded.

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Prevention

The condition is not contagious, although it can cause chickenpox in persons who have not been vaccinated. Patients are recommended to avoid contact with persons with poor immunity and those who have never had chickenpox or have not been vaccinated against it until the blister scabs come off.

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Featured image: Justin Beiber (Instagram)