What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, the virus attacking Justin Bieber’s face?

He told fans in a YouTube video on Friday that the virus attacked « my ear nerve, facial nerves and caused paralysis in my face. You can see that eye isn’t blinking. I can’t smile from this side of my face. This nostril will not move.
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 in childhood or shingles in adulthood, the virus can lie dormant in the body. The reason why the virus reactivates and produces Ramsay Hunt symptoms is not known.
Symptoms can include a painful rash inside the ear canal and outside the ear, sometimes attacking the tongue and roof of the mouth, 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 (a feeling of lightheadedness or things spinning around you) 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.

This weakness can lead to difficulty closing one eye, making facial expressions, and eating, as food can fall from the side of the weakened mouth.

Treatment consists of steroids such as prednisone to reduce inflammation and painkillers. Sometimes antiviral drugs that help fight the herpes family, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, may be prescribed.

Bierber assured fans that he’s « going to get better » and was doing « facial exercises to get my face back to normal. »

« It’s going to be back to normal – it’s just time and we don’t know how long, but it’s going to be okay, » he said in the video. « Obviously my body is telling me I need to slow down. I hope you understand and I will use this time to rest and relax and get back to 100 per cent. »

According to Mount Sinai, full recovery is not certain. Some recover within a few months, however. The earlier it is caught, the better the chances of recovery.

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