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What’s Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and why is everybody talking about it?

Recently in an Instagram video, Justin Bieber broke the news that one side of his face has been fully paralyzed. “As you can see, this eye is not blinking. I can’t smile on this side of my face…So there’s full paralysis on this side of my face,” he said. The condition that he suffers from is rare and is typically known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

It is caused when a particular nerve out of the 12 cranial nerves in the body is affected. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a viral infection that impacts 7th cranial nerve that is involved in facial movements.
Is it different from Bell’s Palsy

Incidence rate of Ramsay Hunt is 50 per million as against which Bell’s Palsy is much higher. But externally the condition of the face of the patient closely resembles either of the two. The patients with Ramsay Hunt syndrome often have severe paralysis at the onset and are less likely to recover completely. The condition appears as half droopy face or stiff facial muscles. In Bell’s palsy what happens is a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. It can occur at any age but notably it happens between 16 and 60.

Although the exact cause of nerve damage in the face is unknown till date, researchers believe that it’s triggered by a viral infection.

The thought is that the facial nerve reacts to the infection by swelling that in turn pressures the bony canal, thereby reducing the blood flow and oxygen to the nerve. The symptoms usually appear abruptly, that are noticed when a person wakes up in the morning or when trying to eat or drink.