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Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: The Disease That Afflicted Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

Justin Bieber recently announced that he's afflicted with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. Owing to this, he's having difficulty speaking (as can be seen in his recent video). Following this revelation, not surprisingly, people are searching the internet for Ramsay Hunt Syndrome fervently. 


People are curious to know whether Ramsay Hunt Disease can cause permanent facial paralysis? Is there any treatment for the same? Is Ramsay Hunt Disease life-threatening? Can Ramsay Hunt Disease cause deafness? If you're also looking for some of these answers, keep reading as I'm quickly gonna cover all the relevant details.


What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Varicella-zoster virus is responsible for the shingles, which when outbreaks and affects the facial nerve near one of your ears, results in Ramsay Hunt Syndrome


For those who quickly want to know whether Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can cause facial paralysis, the straight answer is yes, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can cause facial paralysis and also induce hearing loss in the afflicted ear.


For you, it might be daunting to know, but the chickenpox virus is the reason behind Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. After the chickenpox is gone, the virus continues to thrive in one of your nerves for a number of years. One fine day, it could resurface affecting your facial nerves! Well, it could sound unnerving, but that's how the virus continues to live inside our bodies! 


If prompt treatment of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is not started, it could lead to weakness in facial muscles, leading to facial paralysis and also irreversible deafness. 


Symptoms

There are two distinct signs or symptoms one should look for:


Painful, fluid-filled red rashes/blisters inside, near, or around one of the ears.

Weakness in facial muscles/paralysis on the same side of the afflicted ear.


In most cases, rashes and facial paralysis happen concurrently. In some cases, one can happen after the other. In rare cases, rashes don't appear. 


If you have Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, you might have:

  • Loss in hearing
  • Ear pain
  • Ringing ears (tinnitus)
  • Weakness in facial muscles leads to problems closing one eye, facial expressions, facial droop, difficulty in eating, and facial paralysis, as mentioned above
  • Giddiness
  • Loss of taste
  • Dryness in mouth and eyes


What causes Ramsay Hunt Diease?

Ramsay_Hunt_Syndrome
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome


Ramsay Hunt Disease is caused by the same virus which causes shingles and chickenpox - varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The virus, when activated, attacks the facial nerve in/around the inner ear. Slowly, it leads to irritation and swelling in the nerve. Which, further aggravates to become Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. This disease generally affects adults and is rarely seen in children.


Chances of recovery

It all depends on the amount of damage to the nerves. If the damage is low to moderate, you can hope to get better in a few weeks. However, if the damage is pretty large, the chances of a full recovery are lean.


Also, your chances of recovery are highly dependent on timing. If the disease is identified and treatment is started within 3 days of the onset of symptoms, it can be cured within a few weeks. If treatment is started after 3 days, the chances of recovery are drastically reduced. Children are more likely to make a full recovery.


Severe complications

There are a number of complications associated with Ramsay Hunt Disease, these includes:


  • Face disfigurement owing to weakness in facial muscles
  • Change in taste
  • Infection in the eye, leading to impairment/loss of vision
  • Awkward facial expressions like a smile cause the closure of the eye. 
  • Tenacious pain (postherpetic neuralgia)
  • Spasm in the eyelids and/or face muscles
  • Sometimes, the virus may outspread to other nerves, or even to the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to:
  • Perplexity
  • Somnolence
  • Headaches
  • Weakness in the limbs
  • Pain in the nerves


Goes without saying, if one faces these complications, prolonged hospitalization is imminent. 


Prevention

Since kids are regularly immunized for the chickenpox virus, the chances are very less for them to have Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. For adults, shingles vaccines are available, you should check with your health professional for the same. 


When to seek the medical help

Call your health provider if you have had any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Remember, your chances of recovery depend on timing - within 3 days of the appearance of the symptoms! 


Watch Justin Bieber sharing the news of having Ramsay Hunt Syndrome here.


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