Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: Is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Fatal?

justin bieber ramsay hunt syndrome

Recently, the famous Canadian pop star Justin Bieber posted a video on his Instagram account that unveiled a diagnosis: he is currently suffering from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. Later in the video, he explained how this disease had affected his facial nerves, his inability to blink and smile from the right side of his face, and the shingles in his ear. He also mentioned that this could be linked to the effect of the COVID-19 virus. His fans are in utter shock after the video went viral.

 People are getting more concerned and curious about Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. We have created this blog to give you a complete understanding of the disease in the simplest way possible by simplifying the medical terminology.

What is Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, also known as Herpes Zoster Octicus, is a rare yet severe condition caused by the herpes zoster virus. The same virus is responsible for causing chickenpox and shingles. As a child, all of us probably suffered from chicken pox, but after we recover from the disease, the virus doesn’t disappear. It can stay inside our bodies for decades. It hides away near the nerves, sometimes near the spinal cord or the brain. It occurs when you get an outbreak of the varicella-zoster virus that affects near one of your ears. Trusted Source

It is a viral infection of the outer ear (pinna) caused by herpes simplex virus type 1. It occurs most commonly in adults between 50 and 70, but can occur at any age. The infection is usually mild and self-limiting, with symptoms lasting less than five days. Herpes zoster oticus may also cause hearing loss or tinnitus that lasts for months or years after recovery from the initial rash. Years later, it can reawaken. And when it is reactive, it can affect your facial nerves.

 There are mainly two types of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 1 (Ramsay Hunt cerebellar syndrome) and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 2 (caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus in the geniculate ganglion).

Understanding The Types Of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome:

1. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 1: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome type 1 (also known as RHS1) is a genetic disorder that is quite rare and affects the brain and nervous system. Mutations cause it in the gene for PINK1, which helps control how cells use energy. In people with RHS1, these mutations cause abnormal cell growth and death in parts of the brain involved in movement, coordination, and balance. This can lead to problems with muscle control, such as difficulty walking or falling.

2. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type 2: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome 2, also known as RHS and herpes zoster oticus. The disease’s primary cause is the varicella-zoster virus’s reactivation, which affects the geniculate ganglion. 

The virus can be transmitted easily through direct contact with infected fluid or secretions from the nose or mouth. It is most commonly spread by close personal contact with someone who has active herpes zoster oticus, such as during physical exams and medical procedures. The symptoms of herpes zoster usually begin about 1 to 2 weeks after exposure to the virus.

Symptoms: How Can You Tell If Someone Is Suffering From This Syndrome?

The only way to identify whether one is suffering from any disease is by recognising its early symptoms. There are mainly two main symptoms of it. Firstly, a red rash, fluid-filled blisters, possibly on, in, or around the ear area. Secondly, you can get facial weakness on the same side of the affected ear. Most of the time, only the rash and paralysis occur, and other times the rashes never happen.

 Most patients can have trouble closing one eye on the affected side. When the facial nerve innervates the part of the tongue, the patient may lose taste perception. Sometimes patients also report other symptoms such as ear pain, hearing loss, or getting rings in or around the ear, known as tinnitus.

Do Patients Regain Facial Function After Recovering From Ramsay Hunt Syndrome?

Well, it depends on how aggressive the infection is and how effectively it is treated. There is a high chance of recovery in the majority of cases, but on the other hand, patients may have permanent hearing loss.

According to the Natural Library of Medicine, 70% of people regain normal or near-normal facial functions.

So, from this information, we can infer that no, not everyone regains facial position even after recovering from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

Also Read: Do You Breathe the Correct Way? Here are the 5 best breathing techniques for anxiety

How Long Does It Take For Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Recovery?

The duration of your recovery depends on how critical your condition is. Some people, if their nerve has been mildly swollen or compressed, usually recover in 4 to 6 weeks. If you do not witness any improvement or recovery, then it might be possible that the pressure on the nerve is more severe. You may not be in control of your facial expression in the affected area.

The stages of recovery are divided into three parts:

  1. Flaccid Paralysis: At this stage, the face becomes floppy, and the patient is unable to make any movement on the affected side. This is the primary stage.
  2. Paresis: As the recovery step progresses, the patient can make some tiny movements as the symmetry of the face improves.
  3. Synkenesis: In this stage, the affected facial nerves start regaining control of the affected area. The nerve branches to the forehead and chin are longer, so regrowth of the nerves in these particular areas may take longer.

Is Ramsay Hunt Contagious?

The disease is not contagious; however, if you come into direct contact with a patient who has chicken pox and has blisters with fluid on their body, you may become infected. And once you suffer from chicken pox, there are chances that the virus may rest on your nerves for a longer time. So, to avoid any health issues in the future, it would be better to be cautious now only.

What Is The Best Treatment For It?

Steroids help in a quick recovery if the symptoms are recognised early. The treatment to cure this disease is usually a dosage of steroids called acyclovir and prednisone given in the first few days or generally in the first 72 hours. The dosage of steroids varies depending on age and body weight. Usually, the patient is given a course of 7 to 10 days. But if the person is also suffering from any other chronic disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or mental health issues, then it is risky to prescribe them steroids. For this, further medical help is assigned first.

If it is sensed or found that the disease is caused by the varicella virus that also causes shingles, then anti-virus drugs such as acyclovir are given, but these are not needed in most cases.

What Is the First Thing You Have to Do?

First, you need not panic as it is a curable disease that you can treat if you start your treatment within 48 to 72 hours.

If you face shingles or severe ear pain, quickly reach out to the doctor. Other treatments, such as facial physiotherapy and botulinum toxin injections, may be tried.

If you are here to read the blog, then there are chances that you are curious to know about it or that someone you know has suffered or is suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome. In any case, this article was a primary help guide to a better understanding of this disease. Share this blog with someone who needs to, and also consider dropping any queries in the comment box if you have any questions. Thank you for reading.


Sejal is qualified in health sciences from Yale University and has a degree in Psychology from University of Michigan. She is currently pursuing her Master's in clinical psychology from Gujarat University. Her aim is to aid people in improving their health and achieve fit and healthy bodies and wishes to propagate her knowledge to everyone for their betterment.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This article is super informative. I did hear about this new before bt found it quite difficult to understand effects of that syndrome. I’d wish for JB’s speed recovery it’s tragic to hear anyone suffering for this disease, also I’ll share this article ahead to spread awareness

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