UNC doctor explains what causes Justin Beiber’s condition and other causes of facial paralysis

RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Pop star Justin Beiber’s announcement that he is postponing his tour after half of his face became paralyzed has people wondering about the condition behind it.

The condition is called Ramsay Hunt syndrome and it is just one of many causes of facial paralysis.

As director of the UNC Facial Nerve Center, Dr. Matthew Miller treats people with facial paralysis caused by Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

“The easiest way to think of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is facial nerve shingles,” Miller explained.

So it’s caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox.

“Once you beat that chickenpox infection, that virus still lives inside of you,” Miller said.

The virus can reactivate during times of stress, resulting in Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

“The most obvious symptom is partial or complete facial paralysis on one side of your face,” Miller said, adding that other symptoms may include a rash near your ear, severe pain in your ear , hearing loss and dizziness.

Not everyone has all 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 be 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, during training, I collided head-first with a car,” he recalls. “I suffered severe traumatic brain injury and panfacial fractures, which is the medical term for my crushed face.”

“I had complete left-sided facial paralysis for six or seven months before I slowly started to recover,” Miller added. “I remember how devastating it was, how devastating it was to have people staring at me, really unaware of what I’m saying because they’re wondering what’s going on with my face.”

Miller is still receiving treatment and says there is hope for everyone with facial paralysis, no matter the cause or how long the paralysis lasts.

“We know so much more today than five years ago, 10 years ago,” he said. “We have so many ways to help you get better.”

If you are struggling with facial palsy or know someone who does, you can make an appointment at the UNC Facial Nerve Center by calling 984-974-2255.

You can read more about the center here and find out about the new treatments here.

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