Ashton Kutcher said he was “lucky to be alive” after his experience with a rare disease which affected his ability to see, hear and walk.
Kutcher talks about his battle with vasculitis, a condition involving inflammation of blood vessels, in an episode of the TV show “Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge,” which aired Monday night on National Geographic.
Video of the interviewfirst reported by “Access Hollywood”, shows Kutcher discussing how the disease has affected him. (“Access Hollywood” is produced by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)
In the episode, Grylls asks Kutcher where his strength comes from. Kutcher says, “Two years ago I had this weird, super rare form of vasculitis that, like, destroyed my vision. It destroyed my hearing. It destroyed, like, my whole balance.”
Kutcher tells Grylls that it took him about a year to regain those abilities.
“You don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone, until you say, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see again, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear again , I don’t know if I will ever be able to walk again,” he says.
Vasculitis is a family of rare diseases that involve inflammation of blood vessels. There are about 15 to 20 types of vasculitis, and they’re considered autoimmune diseases, said Dr. Peter Merkel, chief of rheumatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
NBC News was unable to verify Kutcher’s type of vasculitis, and neither he nor Grylls could be reached for comment on Monday.
General symptoms of vasculitis can include fever, weight loss, and body aches, depending on the Mayo Clinic. The disease can also cause more serious symptoms, such as hearing loss, blindness, ulcers, skin lesions, and shortness of breath.
Merkel, who directs the Penn Vasculitis Center, said visual impairment from the disease can be the result of inflammation of the main artery going to the eye or inflammation of small blood vessels near the eye. eye. Similarly, inflammation of the ear canal or nerve damage can lead to hearing loss.
Merkel said Kutcher’s inability to walk most likely means there was neurological damage, although joint damage is also a possibility.
Although some vasculitis symptoms last only a few days, others linger longer.
“Any nerve damage often takes months to recover, because the nerves have to grow back, and that happens slowly,” Merkel said. “Unfortunately, some damage may never recover.”
Vasculitis can affect anyone, according to the Mayo Clinic, and its causes are not well understood. Age, drug use, family history, and immune disorders can be risk factors for certain types of vasculitis.
The condition can be fatal. According research presented in 2014more than 7,800 people died from vasculitis-related causes from 1999 to 2010.
Treatment depends on the type of vasculitis and the organs affected. Corticosteroids like prednisone are an option. Drugs that suppress the immune system are also used.
“Talk about strength in adversity,” Grylls told Kutcher in the interview.
“Lucky to be alive,” Kutcher replies, then adds, “As soon as you start seeing your obstacles as things that are meant for you, to give you what you need, then life starts to become fun, right? You start riding on top of your problems instead of living underneath.”