What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome, the virus that causes facial paralysis in Justin Bieber?

(CNN) — Pop star Justin Bieber announced that his face is partially paralyzed by a viral condition called Ramsay Hunt syndrome, caused by the same virus, varicella-zoster, that causes chickenpox and shingles.

On Friday, he told fans in a YouTube video that the virus had attacked “the nerve” in his ear, facial nerves and caused his face to be paralyzed. “You can see this eye is not blinking. I can’t smile on this side of my face, this nostril won’t move,” she said.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a rare neurological disorder that occurs when the varicella-zoster virus infects a nerve in the head near the inner ear. After having chickenpox as a child or shingles as an adult, the virus can remain dormant in the body. It is not known why the virus reactivates and causes Ramsay Hunt symptoms.

Symptoms can include a painful rash inside the ear canal and outside the ear, sometimes attacking the tongue and palate, according to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Due to the involvement of the inner ear, people with the condition may also experience vertigo (the feeling of dizziness or things spinning around them) or tinnitus, a ringing in the ear.

Ramsay Hunt syndrome can also cause hearing loss on the affected side of the face. Like Bieber, it can also cause weakness, facial drooping, or paralysis on the side of the face that has been attacked by the virus.

That weakness can cause difficulty closing one eye, making facial expressions, and eating, as food can fall out of the side of the weakened mouth.

Treatment consists of steroids such as prednisone to reduce inflammation and pain relievers. Antiviral medications that help with the herpes family, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, may sometimes be prescribed.

Bierber assured fans that “it’s going to get better” and that he was doing “facial exercises” to get his face back “back to normal.”

“It will be back to normal, it’s just time and we don’t know how long, but everything will be fine,” he said in the video. “Obviously my body is telling me to slow down. I hope you understand and I will use this time to rest and relax and get back to 100%.”

According to Mount Sinai, full recovery is not certain. However, some recover within a few months. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances of recovery.

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