Justin Bieber's Health Battle: What You Need to Know About Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

After Justin Bieber shared he is experiencing partial face paralysis, a doctor gave E! News their analysis of the singer’s health and what fans should know about Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

By Mike Vulpo, Meriam Bouarrouj Jun 13, 2022 10:32 PMTags
Watch: Justin Bieber Reveals Half of His Face Is Fully Paralyzed

Justin Bieber's health condition is sparking a conversation about Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

On June 10, the Grammy winner surprised followers when shared his diagnosis in an Instagram video.

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

The 28-year-old continued, "This is pretty serious as you can see. I wish this wasn't the case but obviously my body is telling me I have to slow down." 

For Dr. Andre Panossian, who has not worked with Bieber but is an expert in the field of facial paralysis and has treated countless individuals with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, the singer's diagnosis caught him by surprise. "This is not a very common problem in young people at all," he exclusively shared with E! News. At the same time, the board-certified plastic surgeon—based out of Pasadena, Calif.—shared his insight into a condition that requires early intervention before more damage is done. Keep reading to get answers to your burning questions.

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What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

According to Dr. Panossian, Ramsay Hunt syndrome arises from a viral infection. In fact, it's the same virus that causes shingles or chicken pox.

"When it happens in a specific way, where it affects the nerve to the facial muscles, then that can shut down the nerve completely and therefore give you this paralysis on one side of the face," he explained. "How it's different from something else called Bell's Palsy is that there's an associated rash with it."

Is paralysis a common symptom of Ramsay Hunt syndrome? 

In addition to paralysis, Dr. Panossian said there's a series of symptoms that can happen when the facial nerve is shutting down. Some patients experience a full droop on one side of their face and an inability to close their eyes. Others experience taste differences or a loud machine hum inside the ear. 

How long do symptoms last and how can you reverse paralysis?

In his Instagram video, Bieber didn't have a specific time period of when he will feel 100 percent again. "We don't know how much time it will be, but it's going to be okay," he told followers. "I have hope and I trust God."

According to Dr. Panossian, time is of the essence when it comes to getting professional aid. "Treatment can involve giving some steroids, usually by mouth and some antivirals by mouth as well," he said. "That can go on for about a week to 14 days of treatment to try to really knock out the inflammation and the source of the inflammation, which is theoretically the virus."

As for when full function can return again? Every case is different, Dr. Panossian shared. "That could be anywhere from a week to up to three months sometimes," he said. "That's where the time is of the essence comes in. The longer it hangs out, the more troubling it is for people to recover from it thoroughly at the end of it."

Are second opinions important?

While many neurologists see patients experiencing symptoms, Dr. Panossian argued that plastic surgeons are ones who deal with the syndrome from a treatment standpoint. "Neurologists have this archaic thinking ironically about this problem and in the sense that they will give the essential medicines right up front, but then their advice is, ‘That's it,'" he said. "Sometimes they'll delay treatment to get to someone like myself who deals with the facial nerve constantly. And again, time is of the essence."