Specifically, Willis has frontotemporal dementia, which includes aphasia, which can make it difficult for him to speak and write.
“Unfortunately, communication problems are just one symptom of the illness Bruce is facing,” the family said. “It’s painful, but I’m relieved to finally have a definite diagnosis.”
Willis’ family said last year that the actor was stepping down from a decades-long career due to cognitive impairment.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia, also known as FTD, is one of several types of dementia that causes nerve damage in the frontal and temporal lobes, leading to decreased function in these areas, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
There are different types of frontotemporal dementia. Behavioral-altering frontotemporal dementia causes neurological decline in areas of the brain responsible for empathy, judgment, and behavior.
Primary progressive aphasia affects areas of the brain that control speech, writing, and comprehension. Symptoms usually begin before age 65, but may appear later.
FTD also impairs motor function and movement and is sometimes classified as Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS.
How is FTD different from Alzheimer’s disease?
FTD is usually diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60, whereas Alzheimer’s dementia is diagnosed later in life. Alzheimer’s disease is also associated with more spatial problems such as hallucinations, memory loss, and getting lost.
Treatment and diagnosis
Doctors diagnose FTD using brain imaging techniques such as MRI scans. The results are analyzed along with the patient’s medical history and symptoms. About 30% of people with frontotemporal degeneration inherit the disorder and have no known risk factors.
Medications are available to relieve symptoms, but symptoms worsen over time.
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