Ashton Kutcher revealed recently he had bizarre vasculitis symptoms. This disease left the popular actor unable to see, hear, or walk for a time.
What is vasculitis and its symptoms? And what's your personal risk?
Randy Ramcharitar, MD, a UVA Health vasculitis specialist, answered questions about this health condition, including symptoms to watch for.
Q. What Is Vasculitis?
Vasculitis happens when our body’s own immune system attacks our blood vessels. It causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It most often affects arteries. But it can also affect veins. And it can happen anywhere in the body.
Q. What Are the Symptoms of Vasculitis?
There are many types of vasculitis. They can affect arteries of all sizes and different organ systems. Vasculitis symptoms vary widely. But a few include:
- Limb weakness or pain
- Kidney and/or lung issues
- Vision loss
- Blood clots
- Chest pain
We see these symptoms with other medical conditions. So it’s important to see a medical provider to find the cause.
Worried About Vasculitis Symptoms?
A UVA Health heart and vascular doctor can help.
Q. How Common Is Vasculitis?
Vasculitis is uncommon. But some types happen more often in some groups. Your age, ethnicity, and smoking status can increase your risk for vasculitis.
Q. Can Vasculitis Kill You?
Vasculitis can have big health impacts. These are worse when it's not found and treated early. It can make vessels:
- Weaken and balloon (aneurysms)
- Tear (dissections)
- Form clots
Any of these can decrease blood flow to limbs and organs like the eyes, brain, or heart. This may lead to death if not treated.
Q. How Does a Person Get Vasculitis?
Some forms of vasculitis can happen without an underlying condition or triggering event. But other types of vasculitis can happen with:
- Certain medications
- Autoimmune disorders
- Inflammatory conditions
Q. Are There Early Warning Signs?
Major vasculitis symptoms need to be looked at right away. These serious vasculitis symptoms include:
- New chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Vision loss or stroke-like symptoms
Talk to your primary care provider about other new vasculitis symptoms like:
- Abdominal complaints
Your provider can look to see if these come from another cause. Or if you need to see a specialist.
Q. How Is Vasculitis Treated?
The main vasculitis treatment is taking steroids alone or with other medications to reduce the immune system’s activity. If the vasculitis is from a medication, infection, or other underlying condition, it's important to make sure the person stops smoking, stops the offending medication, and gets treated for the condition.
Q. How Does UVA Health Specialize in This Disease?
At UVA Health's Aortic Center, we take a team approach for patients with suspected or known vasculitis based on symptoms. Experts in vascular medicine, rheumatology, dermatology, vascular neurology, vascular surgery, and radiology all work together to diagnose and manage patients with vasculitis.
A version of this article originally appeared on UVA Today.