RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Pop star Justin Bieber’s announcement that he is postponing his tour after half his face is paralyzed has people wondering about the condition behind it.
The condition is called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and is just one of many causes of facial paralysis.
As Director of the UNC Facial Nerve Center, Dr. Matthew Miller People with facial paralysis caused by Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
“The easiest way to think of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is shingles of the facial nerve,” Miller explained.
So it is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
“Once you beat that chickenpox infection, that virus lives inside you forever,” Miller said.
The virus can reactivate during times of stress and lead to Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
“The most obvious symptom of this is partial or complete facial paralysis on one side of your face,” Miller said, adding that other symptoms can include a blistering rash near the ear, severe ear pain, hearing loss and dizziness.
Not everyone has all of the symptoms. Ramsay Hunt is just one of many conditions that can cause facial paralysis.
“I think we have 30 different causes of facial paralysis that we treat at the UNC Facial Nerve Center,” Miller said.
For people with facial paralysis, Miller stressed that it’s important to get diagnosed as soon as possible because treatment depends on the cause.
Whatever the cause, Miller knows how difficult it is to live with facial paralysis. He experienced it himself after an accident in college.
“During a bike ride, a training ride, I crashed headfirst into a car,” he recalled. “I had severe traumatic brain injury and panfacial fractures, which is the medical term for crushing my face.”
“I actually had complete left facial paralysis for six or seven months before slowly recovering,” Miller added. “I can remember how devastating that was, how devastating it was, people staring at me and really ignoring what I’m saying because they’re wondering what’s wrong with my face.”
Still receiving treatment, Miller says there is hope for everyone with facial paralysis, regardless of the cause or how long the paralysis lasted.
“We know so much more now than we did five years ago, ten years ago,” he said. “We have so many ways to help you get better.”
If you are dealing with facial paralysis or know someone who is, you can make an appointment at the UNC Facial Nerve Center by calling 984-974-2255.
Find out more about the center here and new treatments here.
UNC doctor explains what causes Justin Bieber’s condition and other causes of facial paralysis