Ashton Kutcher revealed this week he had battled a serious autoimmune disease that affected his hearing, sight and ability to walk for more than a year.
"Like two years ago, I had this weird, super-rare form of vasculitis," Kutcher said in an exclusive video clip released to 'Access Hollywood' from an upcoming episode of National Geographic's 'Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge'.
The Hollywood star – previously wed to Demi Moore and now married to Mila Kunis – described how the disease "knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing, knocked out like all my equilibrium. It took me like a year to like build it all back up."
"You don't really appreciate it 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," Kutcher said. "I'm lucky to be alive."
OK! spoke exclusively to London-based Consultant Physician Dr Tom Oates about what Vasculitis is, and just how serious the condition can be.
"Vasculitis means inflammation of the blood vessels, so because there are lots of different types and sizes of blood vessel in the body, there are lots of different types of disease," explains Dr Oates.
"Some patients feel generally unwell for a long time, but are able to live fairly normally, which I suspect was the case for Ashton.
"However, others can present with kidney failure and severe bleeding into the lungs, and can be on dialysis – or even dead – within just weeks of diagnosis. The disease can be rapidly fatal if undiagnosed and untreated.
"Also, because the disease is so rare, many people remain misdiagnosed for some time. Ashton is not exaggerating when he says he’s lucky to be alive."
What are the symptoms and treatments available?
"The symptoms and treatment depend on what type of blood vessel is affected," explains Dr Oates. "Major organs like the kidneys and lungs are supplied by small blood vessels and inflammation of these can cause affected organs to fail.
"Most types of vasculitis are autoimmune, meaning that the body's immune system, our natural defence against infections and other threats, attacks our own body instead.
"Effective treatments are available, using strong drugs, often similar to cancer chemotherapy, to damp down the uncontrolled immune system. Flairs of the disease may happen after the initial diagnosis – meaning that monitoring, and often treatment, are usually life long."
Why do people get it?
"For most people with vasculitis it's just bad luck that they become affected," says the Consultant Physician. "And most types are rare, affecting about 10 to 15 people per million per year."
Age, ethnicity, family history and lifestyle factors such as smoking and illegal drug use can contribute to the risk for vasculitis. Certain medications for high blood pressure, thyroid disease and infections can contribute as well.
For more information see vasculitis.org.uk.
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