Dianne Feinstein was sicker than public knew due to shingles that caused brain inflammation

Posted 17 days ago


After she returned to the Senate recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office confirmed that the California senator was hospitalized for severe neurological complications of shingles that affected her brain and face.

"While the encephalitis resolved itself shortly after she was released from the hospital in March, she continues to have complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome," a spokesperson for Feinstein, 89, confirmed on Thursday in a statement.

Feinstein, California’s senior Democratic senator, previously said that she did not have encephalitis, noting, "It really has never been diagnosed properly."

The senator was diagnosed with shingles on February 26 by her physician in San Francisco, then was "briefly" hospitalized until March 6.

She returned to her home in California to recover, her office said in a statement.

But when she returned to the Capitol, she appeared frail and at times confused as she navigated its halls in a wheelchair, according to multiple reports.

"It is important not to speculate on anyone’s medical diagnosis without an in-person medical evaluation," Dr. Michael S. Okun, executive director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at University of Florida Health in Gainesville, Florida, told Fox News Digital late this week.

"I’m still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus," Feinstein said.

"However," he added, "the reports on Senator Feinstein offer us an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of recognizing and treating meningoencephalitis."

The syndrome is a rare neurological complication of shingles that classically occurs in adults over 60 years old, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).


It sometimes can occur in younger people — as pop singer Justin Bieber was diagnosed with the condition last year.

The virus that causes chicken pox, known as varicella zoster virus (VZV), stays "dormant" in the body after someone gets chickenpox; but later in life, it can reactivate in a nerve that controls the facial muscles, known as the facial nerve.

This leads to a constellation of symptoms because of the location of the nerve in the face. Symptoms can include paralysis of one side of the face, painful blisters near the ear and ear pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"Even though I’ve made significant progress and was able to return to Washington, I’m still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus," Feinstein said in a statement on May 10.

"My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule as I return to the Senate."

These "temporary" side effects are affecting her vision and ability to balance.

"My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule as I return to the Senate," she added.

Some patients have permanent facial paralysis and hearing loss from the syndrome, NORD added.

Three protective layers of membranes known as the meninges cover the brain and spinal cord — which make up the central nervous system — to prevent them from moving, according to Cleveland Clinic.

In meningitis, these outer protective layers surrounding the brain become inflamed — but encephalitis is when the brain gets inflamed, per Johns Hopkins Medicine’s website.... (Read more)