Ashton Kutcher, the actor, has spoken up about his fight with vasculitis, a rare blood vessel illness that has left him unable to see, hear, or move. Kutcher stated on an episode of National Geographic’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge” that he feels “fortunate to be alive.”
“Two years ago, I got this crazy, incredibly uncommon form of vasculitis that, like, wiped out my vision,” Kutcher revealed on the show. It completely destroyed my hearing. It threw off my entire equilibrium.” It took the 44-year-old actor nearly a year to restore those abilities.
“You don’t truly appreciate it until it’s gone, until you say, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see again, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear again, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to walk again,’” Kutcher explained.
Vasculitis, also known as angiitis or arteritis, is a set of rare disorders that can occur when swelling damages the walls of your blood arteries, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Swelling is your body’s reaction to tissue damage. Potential causes of swelling in the blood vessels include autoimmune disorders or diseases that lead your body to attack itself, infections, and trauma.
“Swelling in the blood vessels can cause major complications, such as organ damage and aneurysms, which are bulges in the wall of a blood vessel,” according to the institute.
Vasculitis can damage every blood artery in the body and comes in a variety of forms. Fever, weight loss, exhaustion, soreness, and a rash are some of the symptoms.
According to the institution, drugs can assist cure the problem because the goal is usually to reduce the associated inflammation. “Treatment can induce remission in vasculitis.”
What You Should Know About Vasculitis
“Vasculitis is an autoimmune disease in which your body erroneously attacks its own blood vessels, among other things. “As a result of these arteries being damaged, blood flow to vital portions of your body is reduced,” Dr. Bing Shue, a vascular surgeon with Connecticut-based The Vascular Experts, told Healthline.
“Loss of eyesight can be a severe complication of giant cell arteritis or GCA,” Shue explained. “This is the most prevalent vasculitis that affects persons over the age of 65 and can result in irreversible blindness. Many patients experience muscle cramps and acute tiredness, which can result in a loss of walking capacity. Many types of vasculitis also produce ear inflammation, which can lead to hearing loss and vertigo.”
She emphasized that vasculitis can be controlled if properly recognized and treated.
“After first treatments, it can be put into remission, and your immunologist can check for remission long term,” Shue said. “We undertake treatments to diagnose vasculitis and treat blood vessel damage caused by vasculitis. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications such as stroke or kidney failure.”
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“There are numerous factors,” he continued. “Genetic predisposition is widespread, and diseases can run in families,” says Dr. Specific types of vasculitis are more common in certain age groups… We are finding more cases of vasculitis, although this is largely due to increased awareness and identification of these illnesses. Historically, vasculitis was known for being difficult to diagnose, which resulted in delayed treatment.”
Dr. Robert Koval, a rheumatologist with Texas Orthopedics, told Healthline that the type of vasculitis Kutcher suffers is unknown.
“However, vision/hearing loss and coordination impairments are undoubtedly feasible, albeit rare,” stated Koval. “Vasculitis can show in many different forms, including neurologic symptoms, hemorrhage, rash, or organ failure. Fever, constitutional symptoms, and inflammation in numerous organ systems are common. Lab results, skin or tissue samples, and imaging can all aid in the diagnosis of these disorders.”
“Vasculitis can be lethal in its most severe forms,” Koval added. “However, there are significantly improved medications for treating vasculitis these days that can usually result in remission or at least minimal symptoms.”
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According to Ana Codallo, chief technology officer of the healthcare research website Key Opinion Leaders, the symptoms of vasculitis are diverse.
“There are stomach concerns, such as pain after eating, dizziness, which impairs your hearing, and weakness in your hands and feet,” Codallo explained. “I would always urge you to get medical assistance if you are having any of the symptoms described as well as any additional symptoms as it is always in your best interest to seek medical views. This will allow you to seek the necessary assistance as quickly as possible, as well as keep you from worrying excessively for no cause.
“If you are diagnosed with vasculitis, you will be given a corticosteroid medicine to manage the inflammation, but in some cases, surgery to unblock arteries may be required,” she added. “Vasculitis cannot be cured, but it may be successfully controlled, and it is no longer seen as a fatal disease.”