Explained: Justin Bieber suffers from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, what is it?

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Days after cancelling three shows in his world tour, Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber Saturday (June 11) announced he was suffering from temporary facial paralysis. He said he had to cancel his tour dates as he was “physically, obviously not capable of doing them.”

In an Instagram video, Bieber revealed he has been diagnosed with a condition called ‘Ramsay Hunt Syndrome’, which has fully paralysed the right side of his face.

“As you can see, this eye is not blinking. I can’t smile on this side of my face… So there’s full paralysis on this side of my face,” he said.

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What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, or herpes zoster oticus, is a rare neurological disorder which usually leads to paralysis of the facial nerve and a rash that generally affects the ear or mouth. It sometimes causes ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, and hearing loss.

“It is from this virus that attacks the nerve in my ear and my facial nerves and has caused my face to have paralysis,” Bieber said in his video.

The condition is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults — the varicella zoster virus. It generally occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near your ear. Most commonly known to leave a painful shingles rash, the syndrome can also cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in more serious cases.

The illness can occur in anyone who has had chickenpox, and is most common in older adults, particularly people over 60. Generally with chickenpox, the virus continues to live in your nerves. Years later, it may reactivate and affect your facial nerves, resulting in Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

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According to a report in The New York Times, only about five to 10 out of every 100,000 people will develop Ramsay Hunt Syndrome each year.

What are the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

The most common symptoms are a red, rainfall rash around the ear, facial weakness and paralysis.

Ear pain, hearing loss, tinnitus, dry mouth and eyes, and difficulty closing one eye are also common symptoms of the condition.

Is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome contagious?

No, but reactivation of the virus can cause a bout of chickenpox in people who haven’t previously had the illness or been vaccinated for it.

Can Ramsay Hunt Syndrome be treated?

While the illness almost always goes away, in rare instances, facial paralysis and hearing loss can be permanent, doctors told The New York Times.

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People suffering from Ramsay Hunt are generally prescribed anti-viral medication and in more serious cases, steroids.

In his Instagram post, Bieber said that he was practicing facial exercises.

Is there a Covid-19 connection?

Some studies have suggested that there may be links between the Covid-19 vaccine and the Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. A study conducted by the Graduate Medical Education, Gujarat Adani Institute of Medical Sciences, stated that there “may be a possible association between Covid-19 vaccine and shingles.”

Another study conducted by a team from the Department of Neurosurgery, Tulane Center for Clinical Neurosciences, Tulane University School of Medicine, claimed that vaccine related herpes zoster cases have been reported worldwide.

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