Actor Bruce Willis, who retired from acting last year, was recently diagnosed with a rare form of dementia, his family announced. Willis, 67, was suffering symptoms of aphasia, a condition that made it difficult to remember lines and communicate on-set.
Since we announced Bruce's diagnosis of aphasia in spring 2022, Bruce's condition has progressed and we now have a more specific diagnosis: frontotemporal dementia (known as FTD). Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.
FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone. 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. Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead. As Bruce's condition advances, we hope that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research
BBC Health Analyst James Gallagher:
Bruce Willis' diagnosis of fronto-temporal dementia is relative rare. It is also unusual as it largely affects people in midlife, whereas most other forms are found in old age. Fronto-temporal dementia is caused by a build-up of toxic proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain (those behind the forehead and ears) which are thought to kill brain cells. Damage to these regions affects language (such a Mr Willis' aphasia) as well as behaviour and the ability to plan. There is still no cure or even a way of slowing the disease down as symptoms continue to get worse. On average people live 8-10 years after diagnosis