Ashton Kutcher on his 'life-threatening experience' with vasculitis — what are the symptoms?

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 12: Actor Ashton Kutcher is seen on the Red Carpet of 'VENGEANCE' World Premiere at 2022 Tribeca Festival in New York City, United States on June 12, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ashton Kutcher opened up about his battle with vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disorder. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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Ashton Kutcher offers new insight into his battle with vasculitis: The fast five

1. Ashton Kutcher offered additional information about his struggle with vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammation to the body's blood vessels.

2. Common symptoms of vasculitis are fatigue, weight loss, aches, pains, rashes, fever and loss of appetite.

3. Although there are no known causes of vasculitis, ethnicity, age, lifestyle and family history can contribute to the development of the disease.

4. For mild symptoms, patients will receive anti-inflammatory medicine, while for life-threatening cases, more invasive medications and surgery may be required.

5. Although there are no known ways to prevent vasculitis, regular exercise such as walking or biking, combined with a healthy diet and adequate sleep, can help prevent inflammation in the body.

So, what's going on?

On Monday, Ashton Kutcher offered new insight into his battle with vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disease that can cause organ and tissue damage, inflammation and narrowing of the vessels.

Appearing on the new Paramount+ series "The Checkup: with Dr. David Agus," Kutcher explained that his "terrible, life-threatening experience" happened very suddenly.

"I woke up one day and was having vision issues, could hardly see," he told Agus, who is also his physician. "[It] knocked out my hearing, which threw off my equilibrium ... and I couldn't walk."

The actor, who first revealed his health struggle during an episode of National Geographic's "Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge," previously said the condition also impaired his ability to see and hear.

"Two years ago, I had this weird, super-rare form of vasculitis," Kutcher said in the exclusive video clip released to "Access Hollywood."

"Knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing ... It took me like a year to like build it all back up," Kutcher told Grylls as they hiked through trees and hills.

He continued: "You don't really appreciate it [health] 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. I'm lucky to be alive."

Since his struggle with the disease began, the "Butterfly Effect" actor has made incredible progress thanks to his wife, Mila Kunis, 39.

"I will say, your wife is amazing," Agus said of Kunis. "Just curled up there by your side. It was a beautiful thing to watch."

"She's the best," Ashton agreed.

What is vasculitis?

According to Vasculitis Foundation Canada (VFC), vasculitis is "an inflammation of the wall of blood vessels, arteries, veins or capillaries." It can affect any blood vessel in any organ, including the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, brain, nerves, sinuses, nose and ears.

As a result, the body's immune system attacks the blood cells. This causes a weakening and narrowing of the blood vessel lumen that "can progress to the point of blood vessel blockage, aneurysm or hemorrhage." If an aneurysm bursts, it can cause internal bleeding which can be fatal.

Although there are many types of vasculitis, CanVasc, the Canadian Network for Research on Vasculitides, says most of these are rare and affects individuals of any gender and age.

A patient featuring inflammation of the blood vessels in her hands, this is the condition Ashton Kutcher has
Vasculitis can cause rashes, aches and pains. (Photo via Getty Images)

What are the signs and symptoms of vasculitis?

As vasculitis results in poor blood flow to the tissues throughout the body, including the nerves, lungs and skin, the condition has a wide range of signs and symptoms.

And depending on the specific type and severity of the condition, as well as which organs are targeted, symptoms can be mild, moderate or life-threatening.

VFC says that the most common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, weight loss, aches, pains, rashes (especially on the hands and feet), fever and loss of appetite.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it's imperative you seek medical attention as soon as possible as early diagnosis and proper treatment can bring vasculitis into remission.

What causes vasculitis?

Although there are no known causes of vasculitis, CanVasc explains that ethnicity, age, lifestyle (such as drug use and smoking) and family history can contribute to the development of the condition. Certain medications for thyroid disease or high blood pressure could also be a factor, but that is yet to be determined.

Further, VFC explains that vasculitis can occur on its own or in conjunction with other autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Additionally, research has found that having a Hepatitis B or C infection could also trigger vasculitis, as well as patients with blood cancers including leukemia and lymphoma.

Doctor or physician recommend pills medical prescription to male Patient  hospital and medicine concept
Prescription medication is often used to treat vasculitis. (Photo via Getty Images)

How is vasculitis treated?

For mild cases, treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation. Patients will often be prescribed over-the-counter pain medicines and prescription medication, and receive regular check-ups to monitor the progression of the condition.

For severe or life-threatening cases, treatment is often divided into two stages: Firstly, the induction of disease remission, and secondly, the maintenance of disease remission.

In the induction stage, a corticosteroid drug such as prednisone is the most common medication used to control the inflammation associated with vasculitis. If there are signs of an impending aneurysm, surgery may also be required to reduce the risks. In the second stage, once the condition is under control, lower doses of pain or anti-inflammatory medication will be administered, and the patient will be monitored regularly.

How can I prevent vasculitis?

Although there are no known ways to prevent vasculitis, regular exercise such as walking or biking, combined with a healthy diet and adequate sleep, can help prevent inflammation in the body.

VFC also recommends quitting smoking and the use of any drugs, eliminating processed foods from your diet, and reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with vasculitis, it's important to understand your condition, follow your treatment plan, keep active and surround yourself with an uplifting support system. While the condition is not curable, it can be managed and patients can still live long, healthy lives.

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