[이데일리 이순용 기자] Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, an unfamiliar name, is a disease that became known to some extent when it became known that pop star Justin Bieber and former announcer Choi Hee battled the disease. Ramsay Hunt syndrome is caused by damage to the facial nerve that moves the facial muscles due to the varicella zoster virus. It is the third most common disease after traumatic paralysis such as Bell’s palsy and skull fracture among the diseases that cause peripheral facial nerve palsy called oropharyngeal palsy.
◇ A virus that has been dormant for a lifetime
The varicella zoster virus, which causes Ramsay Hunt syndrome, remains dormant in people’s bodies for the rest of their lives. The varicella zoster virus, once exposed to chickenpox or through vaccination, does not disappear and remains dormant around nerves. In Korea, most people have chickenpox or are vaccinated, so it can be considered that they have the virus.
This virus is usually not a big problem because the immune system suppresses the activity of the virus when it is healthy. In the case of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, the paralysis is more severe on average than Bell’s palsy, which is the most common, and the cure rate is lower, and hearing loss and dizziness are often severe.
◇ Appears regardless of age group due to stress, overwork, lack of sleep, etc.
In general, the incidence rate of facial nerve palsy increases with age, and in the case of young people, it is known that pregnant women have a high incidence of edema or weakened immunity. Recently, it is frequently occurring after excessive stress, lack of sleep, or overwork in the general younger age group such as Justin Bieber and Choi Hee. Recently, direct or indirect association with facial nerve palsy has been raised in relation to COVID-19 vaccination and infection, so caution is needed.
◇ What is the difference between peripheral facial paralysis and a stroke?
Most patients worry that if the paralysis of the face occurs, it may be a stroke (stroke). Professor Koo Bon-hyeok of the Facial Paralysis Center at Kyunghee University Oriental Medicine Hospital in Gangdong said, “In the case of a stroke, it is a disease caused by cerebrovascular problems. In the case of facial nerve palsy, only facial paralysis is the main symptom.” He added, “However, it is not possible to accurately differentiate between peripheral facial palsy and stroke with this information alone, so it is important for patients who are in the high-risk group for stroke to receive a professional consultation and accurate examination.”
◇ If you have pain around your ears, do not close your eyes, or have difficulty drinking water due to lack of strength in your lips, you should visit a hospital.
Professor Koo emphasized, “Facial nerve palsy rapidly damages the nerves from 24 to 72 hours after onset, and if the initial damage is severe, the probability of sequelae increases. In order to suppress nerve damage and recover quickly, intensive initial treatment with sufficient rest is the most important.
Peripheral facial nerve palsy often causes pain around the ears even before the onset of the disease. Water leakage occurs when drinking water or brushing teeth. If these symptoms occur, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
◇ Virus infection including herpes zoster is presumed to be the cause, and immunity management is the key
The most important thing to prevent facial nerve palsy is to manage immunity. This is because it is estimated that Bell’s palsy, other than Ramsay Hunt syndrome, is mostly caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is dormant in the body of adults. Professor Koo said, “In conclusion, special health management is important in the case of advanced age, late pregnancy, immediately after childbirth, and the aftereffects of COVID-19 infection. It is important to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease through treatment in advance when the corresponding problem appears. In addition, even after treatment is completed, it is necessary to improve immunity and maintain healthy health to prevent recurrence.”