On a recent episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge, 44-year-old actor Ashton Kutcher divulged that two years ago he had been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that affected his sight, hearing and ability to walk.
“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,” said the star in a clip of the upcoming episode. Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels that can result in organ, tissue and nerve damage. Symptoms include weight loss, fever, fatigue, rashes, numbness and weakness. Extreme cases can lead to a heart attack or stroke. There are various types of vasculitis and they’re classified by the size of the blood vessels involved. Kutcher did not specify the type he had, only stating it was “super rare.”
Beverly Hills, CA oculoplastic surgeon Raymond Douglas, MD says what causes vasculitis to happen, as with many related autoimmune conditions, is not fully understood. “It may be related to and occur concurrent with other rheumatic diseases like lupus or arthritis,” he explains. “It can be triggered by certain infections or medications. The way it affects the eye may have a number of different causes: It may be due to an infectious organism, be related to a systemic vasculitis condition, be associated with an underlying neoplasm, or be eye specific.”
For Kutcher, it took almost a year to get his senses and mobility back in order. While he did not say how he was able to recover, treatments include corticosteroid medications to help reduce inflammation. “For now, the treatments of these types of issues are with immune-suppressive agents like corticosteroids or immune modulators,” shares Boca Raton, FL oculoplastic surgeon Steven Fagien, MD. “Autoimmune disorders seem to be dramatically on the rise for reasons we cannot fully explain. Many experts are beginning to believe that some diseases of unexplained and undefined origin, such as thyroid disease, diabetes and even autism, may relate to the autoimmune phenomenon.”
Stating that he’s “lucky to be alive,” the star shared that these were basic human functions he had taken for granted. “You don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone,” he said. “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.’”
“Hearing Ashton’s story about his autoimmune disease, you know that’s a terrifying journey. But it’s also a part of why he’s strong and resilient,” said Grylls upon hearing the story. “What do they say in survival? Storms make you stronger and I think he’s living proof of that.”
“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,” Kutcher says in the clip. “You start surfing on top of your problems instead of living underneath them.”