Half of Justin Bieber's face is paralyzed. Here's why.

  • A person singing on a stage

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Updated 6/30/2022 12:51 PM

There was clearly something wrong with Justin Bieber's face. In an Instagram post he shared on June 10, he could not smile, move his nostrils or blink on one side.

The reason? Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

 

"Ramsay Hunt is shingles of the face, associated with one sided ear pain, tinnitus, hearing loss, decreased sense of taste, facial paralysis and painful sores of the ear canal and face, with possible dizziness," said Dr. Dina Golbin-Hallett, an otolaryngologist with Specialty Care Institute and an Advocate Physician Partner. "These symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks, but rarely can be permanent or cause long term weakness or pain of the face."

The culprit is the herpes-zoster oticus virus, which causes inflammation of the facial nerve, she said. Dr. Akash Patel, a neurologist and Advocate Physician Partner, said the condition is quite rare -- only 5 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. People who are immunocompromised and over the age of 60 are at highest risk, he said.

Treatments include steroids, antivirals and pain medication. Antibiotic ointments and eye moisturizers help, too, Dr. Golbin-Hallett said.

Unfortunately, there's not much a person can do to prevent shingles or Ramsay Hunt syndrome, but it's important to see your doctor as soon as you can if you exhibit symptoms, she said.

Thankfully, with treatment, most cases recover fully within six months to a year. Being vaccinated against shingles could also help for those who are most at risk.

"Shingles of any part of the body can have lasting effects, like pain or persistent paralysis. Early treatment is important to lessen the long-term complications," Dr. Golbin-Hallett said. "Regular hygiene and a healthy lifestyle are important to keep the immune system at its best and can prevent a reactivation of these viruses."

Are you curious about your risk? Schedule an appointment with a doctor in Illinois or Wisconsin.

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