What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, the rare disease that affects Justin Bieber?

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Recently, Justin Bieber fans were shocked when the latter announced that he had partial paralysis of his face due to Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. But in fact, what is Ramsay Hunt syndrome? And what are Justin Bieber’s chances of fully regaining facial mobility?

A disease caused by the same virus as chicken pox

Discovered in 1907 by the American neurologist Ramsay Hunt, Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a rare and little known infectious disease. It was until the famous Canadian singer justin bieber claims to have this disease. In a short video on Instagram, he indeed addressed his fans to announce his illness, reported The Guardian. In particular, he has shown that he is only able to smile, blink or twitch his nostrils on one side of his face.

This disease is often confused with Bell’s palsy, a condition that also causes paralysis of half of the face. But these two diseases differ in many ways. When it comes to Ramsay Hunt syndrome, this term describes three different neurological syndromes categorized by type. As for the disease that affected Justin Bieber, it is Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2, also called otic shingles or geniculate shingles.

This disease occurs when the varicella zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles – reactivates and spreads to the facial nerves near the inner ear. It is indeed possible that after having chickenpox in childhood, the virus which caused this disease remains in the body – in the nerves – and remains inactive for several years. The reactivation of the virus can in particular be caused by a depression of the immune system, another infection (such as Covid-19, for example) or quite simply because of stress.

Symptoms and treatments of the disease

The two main symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome are partial paralysis of the face on the side of the infected ear and a red, painful rash inside and around the ears. Usually the rash and facial paralysis occur at the same time. Sometimes one can happen before the other; and other times the eruption never occurs. Other symptoms include ear pain, hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, and change in taste perception or loss of taste.

When it comes to treatments for the disease, an antiviral drug is usually prescribed by doctors, along with other drugs to relieve other symptoms of the disease. If facial weakness persists at the end of medical treatment, physical therapy may be recommended to regain proper use of facial muscles. Botox injections may also be prescribed in case of persistent facial deformity.

To avoid this, early treatment of the disease is highly recommended. Indeed, the chances of complete recovery are very high if Ramsay Hunt syndrome is treated within three days of the onset of symptoms. The longer the start of treatment is delayed, the less chance the patient will have of fully recovering facial mobility. As for Justin Bieber, chances are he has the best treatments available to him and should heal quickly.

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