Singer Justin Bieber in a video posted on Instagram revealed he is suffering from a health condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which has caused full facial paralysis on one side of his face. The singer cancelled a series of his shows that were part of his Justice tour. "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. The singing sensation says he trusts God and hopes to get better with time by resting and doing a series of facial exercises.
What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
A viral infection, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is caused by varicella-zoster virus and affects facial nerve near the ear and it can also cause facial nerve paresis or paralysis. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.
"Ramsay hunt syndrome is caused by varicella zoster virus which affects the facial nerve in inner ear and may cause facial nerve paresis or paralysis, vertigo, ulcers or blisters in ear canal, pinna and same side of oral cavity," says Dr. Swapnil Brajpuria Sr. Consultant ENT, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences Faridabad.
Justin looked quite distressed in his video while talking about his health condition and health experts say it is indeed very painful.
"It can cause severe pain on the affected side. It is very troubling and disturbing condition," adds Dr Brajpuria.
Dr. (Lt. Gen) CS Narayanan Vsm, HOD And Consultant - Department Of Neurology, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka says it is a complication of virus that also causes chickenpox.
"It is usually self-limiting but sometimes it can be associated with complications like meningitis and encephalitis and infection of brain or some nerve involvement spinal cord involvement. These are rare complications," says Dr CS Narayanan.
Dr. Najeeb Ur Rehman, Senior Consultant Neurology, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad says, Ramsay Hunt syndrome is is considered as a neurological disorder in which specific nerves in the head are affected by the Varicella zoster virus. It is also called Herpes zoster oticus.
Symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
"Ramsay Hunt syndrome occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox affects the facial nerve which supplies the muscles of the face. It presents with one sided facial weakness and a few fluid-filled skin blisters near the ear lobe. Affected people can also have hearing loss in this condition," Dr Athira Ramakrishnan, Consultant ENT - Head & Neck Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore.
Dr Ramakrishnan says the syndrome occurs in people who have had chicken pox in the past.
"Virus lies dormant in the body and is reactivated during episodes of poor immunity and nutrition. It usually occurs in elderly people, pregnant women, people with uncontrolled diabetes, and people with poor immunity," the expert says.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: Is it possible to treat Justin Bieber's health condition
Treatment involves antiviral medication, corticosteroids, and pain killers. The predisposing condition causing low immunity has to be corrected.
Dr Ramakrishnan says in some cases, weakness of the face may not recover and eye damage can occur due to the inability to close the eye completely.
"Early diagnosis and antiviral treatment can improve the outcomes. Facial physiotherapy can be done to keep muscles active till recovery occurs. Booster Chicken pox vaccine is likely to help in reducing the incidence of this disease," the expert adds.
"For diagnosis we can do blood tests for varicella zoster virus antibodies, audiometry for hearing loss, electromyography for facial nerve dysfunction, brain MRI. Treatment of this condition includes antiviral drugs like acyclovir and valacyclovir. Oral steroids like methylprednisolone are required to decrease inflammation. Effective pain killers are also required to ease the disabling pain. Eye care is usually needed to avoid corneal ulceration," says Dr Swapnil Brajpuria.