Ashton Kutcher is known for many TV programs and films in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, such as That ‘70s show, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and Two and a Half Men. Recently, in a clip from the upcoming National Geographic’s Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge, he talked about his difficult time with vasculitis, a condition that affected all aspects of his life.
"Like two years ago, I had this weird, super-rare form of vasculitis," Said Kutcher in a video clip released to Access Hollywood. “Knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing, and knocked out like all my equilibrium. It took me like a year to like build it all back up.”
"You don't really appreciate it until it's gone, until you go, 'I don't know if I'm ever gonna be able to see again. I don't know if I'm gonna be able to hear again, I don't know if I'm going to be able to walk again'," Kutcher said. "I'm lucky to be alive."
What is vasculitis?
Vasculitis, also known as angiitis or arteritis, is a group of conditions that occur when there is inflammation of the blood vessels.
Inflammation is an important biological response, as it is the immune system’s reaction to an infection or an injury. It often causes swelling, which can help the body deal with invading germs. However, this differs in vasculitis – as the immune system starts to attack healthy bloody vessels, this causes them to swell and result in them narrowing.
The disease can range in seriousness, from a minor problem that can affect the skin, to causing problems with different organs.
What are the symptoms of vasculitis?
There are general symptoms and signs associated with most types of vasculitis, which include fatigue, fever, headache, weight loss, and general aches and pains
There can be more specific symptoms that are related to certain parts of the body. These include:
- Skin: The disease can cause open sores and lumps on the skin, and red spots can occur because of bleeding under the skin.
- Eyes: The disease can produce red eyes and cause them to present an itchy or burning sensation. In giant cell arteritis, the person can experience eye problems like double vision or blindness (either temporary or permanent) and this could be the first indication of the disease.
- Digestive system: Some people can experience pain after eating if the stomach or intestines are affected. Sometimes ulcers and perforations can occur in these organs and could result in blood in the stool.
- Ears: Dizziness can occur, along with ringing in the ears and hearing loss.
- Hands or feet: Some vasculitis types can cause the soles of the feet and palms of the hands to swell or harden, there can also be some weakness and numbness.
- Lungs: Vasculitis of the lungs can cause people to develop shortness of breath and even cough up blood.
What are the risk factors of vasculitis?
While the causes of vasculitis are unknown, there are many risk factors associated with it, including:
- Age: Some types of vasculitis are attributed to people older than 50 (Giant cell arteritis) whereas some types are more common in children younger than five years old (Kawasaki disease)
- Lifestyle factors: A person has an increased risk of Buerger’s disease if they are younger than 45 and smoke tobacco. Drug use, for example using cocaine, can also increase the risk.
- Family history: A variety of types of diseases like Kawasaki disease, Behçet’s disease, and granulomatosis with polyangiitis can run in families.
- Sex: Different types of vasculitis are at different risks depending on sex. Buerger's disease is more common in males, whereas Giant cell arteritis is more common in females.
- Immune diseases: Immune conditions can cause people’s immune systems to attack their own bodies, and can cause that person to have a higher risk of vasculitis. Some conditions include scleroderma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Infections: A person that has hepatitis B or C is more at risk for vasculitis.
- Medications: Several medications can be a trigger for this disease, such as allopurinol (zyloprim, aloprim), propylthiouracil, hydralazine, and minocycline (minocin).
What is the treatment for Vasculitis?
Different drugs can be prescribed to control the inflammation that this disease causes, such as a corticosteroid drug. However, if this drug is needed for long-term therapy, often the lowest dose is given, as there are some side effects if taken for a long time.
A few other medications can be used at the same time as corticosteroids, and these work to also control the inflammation, however, this depends on the type of vasculitis the person has.
Occasionally surgery may be needed if the vasculitis causes an aneurysm, to reduce the risk of the aneurysm rupturing. Surgery may also be needed to treat blocked arteries, to allow blood flow to the affected areas.