On Saturday (11 June), Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber announced on Instagram that he has been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Bieber has since cancelled a few upcoming performances to concentrate on his recovery from the virus.
We aren’t sure whether his show in Singapore will be affected by this virus yet, but if you are an avid fan of Bieber that wants to know what on earth this virus is about, here are ten facts about Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
According to MedicalNewsToday, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is an infection of the facial nerve.
It’s considered a neurological disorder caused by the Varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox.
People who recovered from chicken pox will carry the dormant virus in their nerves. Later on when the virus becomes active again, it can infect the facial nerve leading to Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome usually causes the following symptoms to occur:
- Facial drooping;
- Crooked smile (as seen in Bieber’s video);
- Difficulty in closing one eye;
- Continuous earache;
- Ear-ringing (or tinnitus);
- Ear pain;
- Hearing loss;
- A painful rash with filled blisters usually on the tongue, palate, inner or outer ear, and ear drum;
- Vertigo (the feeling of spinning or moving);
- A change in taste or taste loss;
- Dry mouth and eyes
(Perfectly understandable while Bieber has to cancel the performances and not just power through them now.)
Essentially, the moment you feel your face is partially paralysed or you see yourself having a shingles rash on a part of your face—it’s advised to consult a doctor ASAP.
Unlike chicken pox, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is not considered contagious.
But the fluids from the blisters formed on the rash of those with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can still be infectious and cause chicken pox.
So until the rash is healed and scabbed over, it’s best to avoid physical contact with people who’ve not gotten chicken pox before or who has yet to take the chicken pox vaccine, people with a weak immune system, newborns, and pregnant woman.
(Again, another reason why Bieber should cancel his upcoming performance.)
Considered a Rare Disease
Even though chicken pox is commonplace for people to have growing up, the likelihood of it flaring up into Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is considered rare.
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Only five in 100,000 people within the United States get it in their lifetimes.
Long Term Complications
It’s important for those who are diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome to get treatment ASAP as leaving it untreated can cause the following problems:
- Risk of losing facial movement on the face permanently;
- Permanent hearing loss;
- Damage to the cornea due to the inability to close their eye
There’s also the risk of the virus spreading to other nerves in the body causing confusion, lethargy, back pain, weakness in limbs, and headaches.
But fear not, whether you are a Bieber fan or not, know that there’s a treatment plan available for those with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Early treatment for Ramsay Hunt Syndrome increases the chance of a complete recovery in patients.
Botox can actually be used to treat patients who have trouble closing one eye.
The virus can be treated with antiviral medication and corticosteroids (or steroids) for swelling and pain.
Physical therapy can also be used to help regain the proper use of the patient’s facial muscles.
For a doctor to determine whether or not you have Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, they would usually look out for facial weakness and a blistering rash.
Samples of the fluid in the blisters formed inside the ear may also be taken for testing to confirm the diagnosis.
The doctor might also perform a tear or blood test as well.
Doctors to Consult
But if you are really paranoid about the constant “what if” of getting Ramsay Hunt Syndrome—get your family doctor to refer you to a neurologist or an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist).
The neurologist might perform an MRI to determine if there is swelling of the nerves, indicating an infection.
Usually, elderly over the age of 60 who had chickenpox before are more likely to get Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
It is extremely rare however for children to get it.
(It’s safe to say that Bieber did get really unlucky to have this virus as a 28-year-old man.)
Preventing Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
The best way to prevent someone from getting or developing Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is to be vaccinated against chicken pox.
Elderly over the age of 50 should also take the shingles vaccine as well.
But right now, there’s really no cause of worry about you getting Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Let’s just pray for Bieber that he recovers smoothly because after all—health is wealth.
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