Virus Causing Justin Bieber’s Facial Paralysis on Rise in Young Adults

Justin Bieber revealed he has a rare neurological disorder that paralyzed his face, but it’s on the rise among young people.

Multi-Grammy award winner Justin Bieber has revealed that he is suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in facial paralysis. Caused by the varicella zoster virus, which causes chicken pox in children and shingles in adults, the syndrome triggers “a shingles outbreak that affects the facial nerve near one of your ears,” according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to the painful shingles rash, Ramsay Hunt syndrome can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear. Not a pleasant prospect for Bieber, a musician, who is only 28 years old.

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According to Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, full recovery is not certain. Treatment includes steroids such as prednisone to reduce inflammation and pain medication. Antiviral medicines that help with the herpes family, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, may be prescribed.

Bieber assured fans that his condition will improve and that he was doing “facial exercises to get my face back to normal.” According to The Hill, the condition is somewhat similar to Bell’s Palsy, though Ramsay Hunt’s effects are more severe. Patients may also not recover completely, say researchers.

Until now, shingles has been considered a disease that mainly strikes older adults, because the virus that causes it, varicella zoster, has typically emerged from its slumber later in life as the immune system weakens. The virus lays dormant in nerve cells until it is triggered, causing the painful, blistering shingles rash.

Over the last few decades, the number of shingles cases among younger adults has risen. Experts believe the reason is that before the chicken pox vaccine was introduced in the mid-1990’s, just about everyone came down with this bumpy, itchy rash. Since then, the number of chicken pox cases has dropped by 90%, says WebMD. The lack of circulating chicken pox virus has been problematic for shingles, said epidemiologist Edgar Hope-Simpson, who proposed that being exposed to chicken pox helps boost immune response against the virus.

“If what Hope-Simpson said was correct, that opens the possibility that if you reduce exposures to kids with chicken pox, it might mean kids are getting less of this exogenous or external boosting. That might put them at great risk for shingles, and at a younger age,” said Dr. Rafael Harpaz, who has been studying shingles for 15 years.

Stress may be another reason for the spike in shingles cases.

“When we have a lot of stress, our immune system gets temporarily diminished,” says Dr. Jose Montero, a professor of medicine and infectious disease expert from Florida. That temporary weakening might allow the varicella virus to reemerge, says Montero, who adds that the pain of shingles can be “debilitating in some people.” Continue reading at Newsmax.

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