What is the link between chickenpox and Justin Bieber’s facial paralysis? Are you at risk?

Or in the singer’s case, the varicella zoster virus chose to hit the nerves on the right side of his face. There are five branches of nerves on each side of the face and each branch is responsible for animating a different part: the forehead, the eye area, the middle of the face, the mouth and the neck.

“Facial palsy can affect all five or any of the nerve branches, depending on the severity of the nerve damage,” Dr. Ng said. “When this happens, signals from the brain are not transmitted to the facial muscles and movements are disrupted.”


The virus that causes Ramsey Hunt syndrome isn’t the only one that can cause facial paralysis. There are others like the herpes simplex virus (it causes cold sores and genital herpes) and even the flu virus. “We see patients with facial paralysis after having had the flu and they would have one or more affected branches of the facial nerves,” Dr Ng said.

However, not all cases of facial paralysis can be attributed to a known virus. In such cases, doctors diagnose unexplained facial muscle weakness as Bell’s palsy. “We don’t have local data. Typically, one in 65 people will have Bell’s palsy at least once in their lifetime. We see a number of such cases every week,” Dr Ng said.

Harry D. Gonzalez