What is vasculitis that Ashton Kutcher battled?


One wouldn’t have expected Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher to spill his survivor story during the rough and tumble of the Bear Grylls show. But he admitted that three years ago he couldn’t walk, hear or talk after being diagnosed with vasculitis.

In a video grab from the show, he said, “I had this weird, super rare form of vasculitis, that like knocked out my vision, it knocked out my hearing, it knocked out like all my equilibrium….lucky to be alive. You don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone.” Kutcher is not alone, many others face this auto-immune disorder and often lifestyle and mental stress are triggers, says Dr Tarun Grover, Director, Peripheral Vascular and Endovascular Sciences, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram

What is vasculitis?

Vasculitis is basically a group of disorders that affects our blood vessels by inflaming them. It is an autoimmune disorder, which in layman’s language means the inflammation is caused due to the person’s own immunity. In such a condition, a person’s immunity mechanism starts acting against the body’s own tissues. So, there are certain diseases where the body’s immune system attacks veins, arteries and small capillaries of the body. And depending on the nature of the blood vessel, we categorise the disease as small, medium or large vessel vasculitis.

What is the condition that Kutcher suffered from?

He said he had a visual impairment and difficulty hearing which occurs in temporal arteritis, where people start losing their vision as the blood vessels around the eye get affected. This is a rare condition.

What are some symptoms?

The symptoms depend upon what kind of blood vessels are involved. Additionally, there are some general symptoms which include inflammation, weight loss, fever, tiredness and fatigue. Some people also complain of skin lesions, red spots and bruises.

Does vasculitis affect other parts of the body as well?

Vasculitis can occur in any body part or affect an organ connected with blood vessels. In some severe cases, the clots are formed in the vessels leading to ulcer formation. If the affected blood vessels are those supplying blood to the muscles or bones, it leads to joint pain and reactive arthritis. Similarly, if the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain get affected, the deprivation can lead to headaches and visual impairment. Abdominal pain occurs when GI tract is involved and blood-spots accompany coughing bouts when the respiratory tract is involved. So, it can affect multiple organs at a time.

Who are at risk? How is the condition diagnosed?

People suffering from autoimmune disorders are at high risk of developing vasculitis. People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C can also get exposed to vasculitis. The definitive diagnosis is established clinically with medical response and conducting a biopsy.

How is the condition managed?

The main treatment of this disease lies in suppressing somebody’s immunity, which is done by giving anti-inflammatory steroids and monoclonal antibodies. These act against immune markers and help suppress immunity. Over a period, these diseases go into remission and can last for years together. Patients’ symptoms start getting less severe and they get comfortable. However, it is not a complete cure as a person can have a recurrence of similar symptoms after years.

Therefore, once the disease goes into remission, it becomes very important to follow a healthy lifestyle. A proper diet, good exercise and maintaining a good lifestyle, keeping distance from external risk factors, like excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, are a must. Additionally, keeping stress away and maintaining peace of mind are equally important because a lot of autoimmune disorders are related to mental stress

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