He’s been a Hollywood heartthrob since storming on the screen in That 70’s Show and in the time since, Ashton Kutcher has gone on to star in some of pop culture’s biggest flicks. But while he’s known for his trademark charisma and lightning-sharp wit, the comedic star has recently revealed a more personal diagnosis that left many fans reeling.
On a recent episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge, Kutcher said he felt “lucky to be alive” after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that robbed him of equilibrium, sight and hearing.
The disease, known as vasculitis, is one that inflames the blood vessels. Kutcher told Grylls that the diagnosis had come on two years ago and he’d taken a full year simply to recover. “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,” said Kutcher. “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 admitted that it was a terrifying journey, but ultimately one he emerged from on the other side, feeling stronger and more resilient. While he didn’t reveal which type of the ailment he suffered from, vasculitis can occur in any demographic and grew more acute at the height of the global pandemic when American and British agencies were warned of a possible link between Covid-19 and Kawasaki disease, a type of vasculitis found in children, according to reports from The Guardian.
Grylls was quick to praise the star for being so strong despite the major health scare, to which Kutcher said it presented an opportunity for him to reframe hardship and look at it as an opportunity to persevere. “The minute you start seeing your obstacles as things that are made for you, to give you what you need, then life starts to get fun, right?” Kutcher said. “You start surfing on top of your problems instead of living underneath them.”
Here’s everything you need to know about vasculitis and the symptoms to look out for.
What is vasculitis?
According to the Mayo Clinic, vasculitis involves inflammation of the blood vessels where they become inflamed and the wall starts to get thicker, restricting blood flow. When this occurs, organs and tissues can become damaged. As Kutcher explained, most forms of vasculitis are rare and anyone can suffer from it. It can affect one organ or multiple organs.
How many types of vasculitis are there?
There are around 20 different forms of the disease according to NUY Langone Medical Centre data. Cogan’s Syndrome is a form of vasculitis that causes vision loss, hearing impairment, and dizziness. It also involves remission and relapse and ongoing monitoring by your doctor. Despite this, other forms of the autoimmune disease are considered short-term illness as they aren’t chronic and can be considered acute.
What are the symptoms?
While the symptoms can be hard to identify, things to look out for include fever, weight loss, a fast pulse, and pain in various parts of your body. The reason vasculitis can be so difficult to diagnose is because the symptoms are rather vague and it can be difficult to explain exactly where the pain in your body is coming from. If you have a form of vasculitis that attacks your skin, it’s also possible that you may develop a rash on your leg called “palpable purport” in which purply-red raised bumps appear in a “crop” pattern.
How is it diagnosed?
As a number of diseases also happen to mimic symptoms of vasculitis, it can be tricky to diagnose and this process can take time. If it’s suspected you have vasculitis, doctors will do a biopsy of an organ that seems to be affected and look for the inflammation. Additional tests can be done to help determine exact diagnoses, such as blood tests, X-rays and angiograms.
How is it treated?
Treated by rheumatologists, vasculitis is often treated with drug therapy that can include steroids like prednisone or prednisolone. In more severe cases, immune-suppressing drugs like Cytoxan can also be effective, while others may get surgery for blocked arteries or aneurysms as a result of vasculitis. As Men’s Health US reports, outcomes for patients can be good and it all starts with a positive outlook, as demonstrated by Kutcher himself.