Justin Bieber: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

by Ariela Paulsen
Justin Bieber: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Just a couple of years ago, Justin Bieber shared that he was battling Lyme disease.  It was rough, but he was able to take the time and treatments needed to heal.  He used his platform to advocate about Lyme, even making a documentary about his experience battling mental illness, Epstein Barr, and chronic Lyme.  Justin talks about how hard it is to just get out of bed in the morning.  He shows the brutal fatigue and opens up about the struggles, even showing his treatments and doctor visits.

After making a remarkable comeback, Justin is taking a break once again to heal, this time from a condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.  This neurological condition is when the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles (VZV) attacks the nerves in your face.  VZV can linger dormant for years after the initial infection, reactivating decades later to cause Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.  It is estimated to affect 5/100,000 people in the US (mostly adults over 60), but researchers have noted that it may be too underdiagnosed to have an accurate statistic.  

The symptoms can include (but are not limited to): 

  • painful, blistering rashes
  • ear and facial pain
  • vertigo
  • face paralysis (which can cause slurring and dry eye)
  • changes in hearing such as deafness or tinnitus 

Diagnosis of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can be tricky, as not all patients will experience all of the symptoms, and they may not occur simultaneously.  For example, first the patient might develop tinnitus, then sometime later a rash, followed by paralysis once the rash has cleared up… Doctors may see each symptom as a separate issue without connecting the dots.  If a doctor suspects Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, VZV can be identified in tears, saliva, or blood, but tests are not necessary for diagnosis.

Treatment – antivirals and steroids – is much more effective early on so a quick diagnosis is important.  Symptoms typically clear up, but paralysis and hearing changes can become permanent in some cases.  

Justin has been open about this new chapter in his healing journey, posting images and video of his face paralysis.  He is confident in his recovery, but will be taking it easy until his body has healed.  

@justinbieber on instagram

Justin, thank you for your open honesty, using your voice to shed a light on the chronic illness world, and for reminding us that it’s ok to slow down.  We wish you the best in your healing process ♡

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