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All you need to know about Justin Bieber’s Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

All you need to know about Justin Bieber’s Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Nerve-racking diagnosis

Text: Phyll Wu

Image: Getty Images

Justin Bieber has cancelled his upcoming concerts due to a rare illness that has left his facial muscles partially paralysed

Last week, Justin Bieber announced the cancellation of a number of upcoming The Justice World Tour shows due to an illness he is currently recovering from. A few days later, Bieber revealed in an Instagram video that he has been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a rare condition causing his face to be partially paralyzed.

“It is from this virus that attacks the nerve in my ear and my facial nerves, and has caused my face to have paralysis. As you can see, this eye is not blinking. I can’t smile on this side of my face. This nostril will not move,” Bieber explained.

In the three-minute-long video, Bieber brought our attention to a disorder that many of us had never heard of. Now that we're aware of its existence, here’s all you need to know about Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder that is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. In most cases, we get lifelong immunity after recovering from chickenpox and the virus remains dormant in our nerve tissues for the remainder of our lives. However, although it’s rare, the virus may reactivate with even more complications, such as spreading to the facial nerve in the case of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome symptoms

Although this varies from case to case, the two main symptoms that affected individuals experience are a painful rash affecting one ear, and facial weakness or paralysis on the same side as the affected ear. Typically, the rash and paralysis occur at the same time. However, they do not always happen simultaneously and in some cases, the rash never occurs.

Other symptoms include pain in the external ear canal, loss of hearing, tinnitus (ringing in your ears), difficulty closing one eye, vertigo (a sensation of spinning or moving), a change in taste perception or loss of taste, and dry mouth and eyes. In some cases, pain in the ear can be intense and may spread to affect the neck. Hearing loss is typically temporary; however, it may become permanent if not treated properly.

Who is at risk of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Anyone who has had chickenpox can potentially develop Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. Although it is more common in adults older than 60, it can occur at younger ages in rare cases like Bieber’s. The syndrome itself is not contagious but reactivation of the varicella zoster virus can affect individuals who have not previously had chickenpox or was not vaccinated for it.

Prevention and treatment

Like many other diseases, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can be prevented by routine vaccinations against chickenpox at a young age. This greatly reduces the chances of becoming infected with the chickenpox virus, in addition to preventing the many complications that may develop with it.

In terms of treatment, those who have been affected by Ramsay Hunt Syndrome are encouraged to seek medical attention in the early stages to prevent long-term complications. The treatment commonly involves antiviral medications and special care to prevent corneal injury, as the inability to properly close the affected eye can expose the cornea to abnormal drying and foreign body irritation.

Most medical professionals agree that treatment should begin within three days, as prompt diagnosis and management seem to improve outcomes. Approximately 70 per cent of affected individuals will fully recover if they receive antiviral treatment within 72 hours of developing symptoms. However, the likelihood of making a full recovery reduces to 50 per cent if it's not treated within the recommended time frame. The recovery process depends on the severity of the damage caused to the nerve. Mild cases can be resolved within a few weeks but severe cases require longer recovery time with lower chances of completely regaining normal function.


Bieber has assured fans that he is focusing on resting and doing facial exercises to aid recovery. The star says, “It will go back to normal. It's just time and we don't know how much time, but it's going to be OK. Obviously my body's telling me I gotta slow down. I hope you guys understand and I'll be using this time to just rest and relax and get back to 100 per cent.”

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