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If you’ve been on social media the past few days, you would’ve heard that Justin Bieber cancelled his world tour via Instagram. The video showed the singer breaking the news but you’ll notice that the singer showed partial paralysis on his face, no thanks to Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS), a rare and painful complication of the virus that causes shingles and chickenpox.
In the video, “I wanted to update you guys on what’s been going on,” Bieber said. “Obviously, as you can probably see from my face, I have this syndrome called Ramsay Hunt syndrome. And it is from this virus that attacks the nerve in my ear and my facial nerves and has caused my face to have paralysis.”
What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?
RHS was discovered in 1907 by the neurologist of the same name. It is a rare neurological disorder that can inflame and paralyse the facial nerve and cause a painful rash around the ear or mouth.
What are its symptoms?
Symptoms vary from person to person, but can cause severe discomfort or pain. Most sufferers become paralysed on one side of the face and develop an ear rash, according to the US National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
The affected facial muscles may become weak or feel stiff, preventing the sufferer from smiling, frowning or shutting the eye on their paralysed side. In certain cases, their speech may become slurred.
In many instances, a reddish, painful blistering rash appears on the outer ear and external ear canal.
“It’s often diagnosed because of this ear rash,” French infectious disease specialist, Benjamin Davido, told AFP. Sometimes the blisters spread to the mouth, soft palate and upper throat and ear pain spreads to the neck.
Other possible symptoms include ringing in the ears (tinnitus), earache, hearing loss or hyperacusis – where sounds appear much louder than normal – as well as nausea and vertigo.
Causes of RHS
RHS is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults. The virus can remain dormant for decades in a person who has had chickenpox as a child.
When it is reactivated, the carrier develops shingles and in some cases RHS. It is unclear why the virus reactivates and affects the facial nerve.
Frequency of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome infection
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome affects men and women in equal measure. Around five people in every 100,000 develop the syndrome in the United States every year, according to one estimate cited by NORD. However, some researchers believe cases go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed, making it difficult to determine the disorder’s true frequency in the general population.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can potentially develop Ramsay Hunt syndrome, but it is extremely rare in children, NORD said. Most cases affect older adults, especially those over 60, or with compromised immunity.
“It’s quite astonishing to get Ramsay Hunt at Justin Bieber’s age,” Davido said. “But an unhealthy lifestyle or excessive fatigue can contribute because they make you more prone to viral infections.”
What is the treatment?
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is generally treated by antiviral drugs such as acyclovir and famciclovir, along with corticosteroids like prednisone. Physiotherapy — “which must start early on” — usually enables the sufferer to make a full recovery but “around 30 percent” experience after-effects, Davido said.
This article was published via AFP.
(Hero and featured image credit: Arturo Holmes/MG21/Contributor/Getty Images)
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