When Ashton Kutcher’s autoimmune disorder left him with vision and hearing problems

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Ashton Kutcher recently shared that three years ago, he went through a bit of a health crisis, which affected his ability to walk, along with his sight and hearing. The actor was quoted as talking about a rare autoimmune disorder in an exclusive video clip shared with Access Hollywood from an upcoming episode of National Geographic‘s ‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge‘.

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He said, “Like two years ago, I had this weird, super rare form of vasculitis that knocked out my vision, it knocked out my hearing, it knocked out all my equilibrium.” According to the publication, it took him about a year to get his strength back.

The 44-year-old told Bear Grylls: “You don’t really appreciate it, until it’s gone. Until you go, ‘I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to see again, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to hear again, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to walk again’.”

“Lucky to be alive,” he added.

Later, Kutcher, who is married to actor Mila Kunis, also took to Twitter to write that he had “a rare vasculitis episode” some three years ago, calling it an “autoimmune flare up”.

His tweet read, “Before there are a bunch of rumours/chatter/whatever out there, yes, I had a rare vasculitis episode 3 years ago (autoimmune flare up). I had some impairments, [hearing], vision, and balance issues right after. I fully recovered. All good.”

What is vasculitis?

Dr Savyasachi Saxena, consultant ENT at Fortis Hospital Noida explains that vasculitis is an inflammatory condition, where the immune system fights blood vessels in the body. “It means your blood vessels are being attacked. It happens for no clear reason; it can be genetic or acquired sometimes, like an infection or a drug-associated reason,” the doctor tells indianexpress.com.

Concurring, Dr Shantesh Kaushik, cardiac consultant, cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai says the blood vessels “get damaged and develop clots, causing loss of blood supply in the affected parts resulting in gangrene, which is death of a tissue”.

Dr Saxena adds that in some versions of the disease, there is focus on large vessels like the aorta, while others can focus on small vessels in the ear or brain. “Vasculitis in the brain can even lead people to having seizures or strokes. In milder cases, like with Kutcher, he only faced a partial loss of blood flow to his eyes and ears. In more severe cases, you can have permanent hearing loss and disequilibrium.”

“Commonly, small vessels of the digits are affected, causing blackening and loss of fingers, or toes. In severe cases, it can cause strokes or organ dysfunction like intestinal loss,” Dr Kaushik agrees, adding that steroids and cytotoxic drugs “tone down the damaging immune response”.

“In the resolving phase, angioplasty of the blocked vessels or bypass surgery may be the only options. If treated early, it can resolve; otherwise, it can become life-threatening when it affects heart arteries,” he warns.

Dr Saxena concludes by saying that patients with vasculitis are typically given prednisone, a steroid. “If the steroid does not seem to solve the issue or if the vasculitis returns, patients can be given methotrexate, an immunosuppressant medication used for vasculitis and other types of autoimmune disease. It is, however, a reserve drug to be used under strict supervision only.”

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