Hollywood actor Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, almost one year after stepping away from acting due to a form of cognitive impairment called aphasia.
The family of Bruce Willis released a statement revealing that the actor has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Willis stepped away from acting last year after an initial diagnosis of aphasia, but his condition has since progressed leading to the development of other symptoms as well.
“For people under 60, FTD is the most common form of dementia, and because getting the diagnosis can take years, FTD is likely much more prevalent than we know,” the statement read. “Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead.”
FTD is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes protein plaques and tangles to build up in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, leading to progressive cell death. The frontal and temporal lobes are responsible for executive functioning, emotion,personality, behavior and language. Due to the disease impacting the lobes, people living with FTD often experience drastic behavioral or verbal changes before exhibiting signs of memory loss.
Symptoms include limited judgement, socially inappropriate behavior, constant mood changes, loss of language abilities and empathy, as well as issues with balance and movement.
His family hopes that the media attention will shine a spotlight on FTD.
Willis’s eldest daughter, Rumer Willis, announced last March that the Hollywood actor was struggling with a language disorder called aphasia and would be stepping back from acting.
That annoucement did not specify which type of aphasia the actor was suffering from. Two variants of progressive form of aphasia called Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) can be caused by frontotemporal dementia, which affects an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people in the United States. Meanwhile, another variant of PPA — the logopenic variant — is often caused by underlying Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that with Alzheimer’s, memory loss is often the first symptom that appears. With FTD, people usually experience behavioral and language changes first. In addition, people with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty recalling names, but usually don’t have serious problems with speech until later stages.
Willis’s career started in the 1980s starring alongside Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting, but he is most famous for playing John McClane in the 1988 movie Die Hard. Spanning the decades, he became one of Hollywood’s best leading action stars responsible for many other box office successes.
“Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately.” his family said in their statement. “We know in our hearts that – if he could today — he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families.”.