Frontotemporal Dementia: What To Know About Bruce Willis' Diagnosis

In a statement published by The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) on Thursday, February 16, Bruce Willis' family announced that his diagnosis of aphasia has further progressed into frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

"FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone," the actor's family members wrote in the statement. "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." They stated that Willis has experienced challenges with communication, which Mayo Clinic cites as a characteristic of aphasia. Aphasia can also include difficulties with writing and speech.

Willis' family thanked the public and loved ones for their ongoing messages of support and compassion and highlighted the resources available through the AFTD for individuals and families affected by the disease. "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," the family stated.

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is characterized by the breakdown of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal regions of the brain (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). Symptoms can begin to emerge as early as age 40, impacting one's behavior, language abilities, personality, and mobility.

Progression of the disease may be slow or rapid. Those with the condition often experience physical symptoms including tremors, weakness, coordination issues, balance difficulties, or trouble swallowing. Behavioral symptoms are also common, such as impaired judgment, apathy, decreases in empathy, increased impulsivity, emotional withdrawal, agitation, and mood changes, as well as speech difficulties.

Cleveland Clinic reports that as many as 1.8 million people are estimated to be affected by frontotemporal dementia across the globe. Currently, there is no cure for the disease or treatment methods for slowing its progression. However, experts report that those who have incurred prior head injuries are at a greater risk of developing frontotemporal dementia. Therefore, it's important to practice prevention by wearing helmets, padding, or seat belts to reduce the risk of head trauma.