Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Screen capture of an instagram video of Justin Bieber explaining he’s been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a virus that has left the right side of his face temporarily paralyzed. InstagramHandout

Justin Bieber cancelled several concerts due to “sickness” this week, including two in Toronto, and said today on Instagram he has been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a virus that has left the right side of his face temporarily paralyzed.

Here’s what we know about the Stratford, Ont.-raised pop singer’s condition, prognosis, and the syndrome.

What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

According to New York’s Mount Sinai health system resource, Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a painful rash seen mostly in adults that occurs when the varicella-zoster virus infects a nerve in the head. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. In rare cases the syndrome is seen in children.

What causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

The varicella virus that causes the syndrome is believed to infect the facial nerve near the inner ear, leading to irritation and swelling.

Bieber said in a video posted to Instagram telling fans about the diagnosis that the syndrome is “from a virus that attacks the nerve in my ear, my facial nerves, and has caused my face to have paralysis.”

What are the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

New York’s Mount Sinai health system resource describes the symptoms as:

  • Severe pain in the ear
  • Painful rash on the eardrum, ear canal, earlobe, tongue, and roof of the mouth on the side with the affected nerve
  • Hearing loss on one side
  • Sensation of things spinning (vertigo)
  • Weakness on one side of the face that causes difficulty closing one eye, eating (food falls out of the weak corner of the mouth), making expressions, and making fine movements of the face, as well as facial droop and paralysis on one side of the face

Bieber described his symptoms as facial paralysis, saying his right eye cannot blink, and he cannot smile or move his nose on the right side of his face.

“Obviously, my body’s telling me I gotta slow down,” he said in the video.

What is the treatment for Ramsay Hunt syndrome?

New York’s Mount Sinai health system resource says strong anti-inflammatory drugs called steroids (such as prednisone) are usually given to treat Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Antiviral medicines may be given.

Overall, chances of recovery are better if the treatment is started within three days after the symptoms begin. It is not yet known when Bieber’s symptoms began.

When treatment is started within this time, most people make a full recovery. If treatment is delayed for more than three days, there is less of a chance of complete recovery.

Sometimes strong painkillers are also needed if the pain continues even with steroids, according to Mount Sinai’s health resource. The wearing of an eye patch is sometimes recommended to prevent injury of the cornea while there is weakness of the face muscles.

In 2013, then-federal member of Parliament Olivia Chow was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome Type 2 and treated with medication that knocked the virus out within a week.

How long does Ramsay Hunt syndrome last?

Recovery can take a few weeks or longer if the damage is more severe. New York’s Mount Sinai health system resource says if there is not much damage to the nerve, patients should recover completely within a few weeks. If damage is more severe, they may not fully recover, even after several months.

Justin Bieber shares the news of his Ramsay Hunt syndrome diagnosis

Justin Bieber posted a video to his Instagram account Friday afternoon sharing the news.

In the video, Bieber says, “this is pretty serious, as you can see.

“I’ll be using this time to just rest and relax and get back to 100 per cent so that I can do what I was born to do. But in the meantime, this ain’t it. I gotta go get my rest on, so that I can get my face back to where it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m going to get better,” he says. “I’m doing all these facial exercises to get my face back to normal, and it will go back to normal. It’s just time. We don’t know how much time it’s going to be.”

-With files from the Canadian Press

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe