Bruce Willis Diagnosis: What is Frontotemporal Dementia?

On Thursday, it was announced that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, which some fans of the actor may not have ever heard of before. The Alzheimer's Association offers a detailed explanation of FTD, which "refers to a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain's frontal lobes (the areas behind your forehead) or its temporal lobes (the regions behind your ears). The association also says nerve cell damage caused by FTD can lead to "loss of function in these brain regions, which variably cause deterioration in behavior, personality and/or difficulty with producing or comprehending language."

Previously, Wilis was diagnosed with Aphasia. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. Aphasia leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others. Many people have aphasia as a result of stroke. Both men and women are affected equally, and most people with aphasia are in middle to old age." The organization adds, "There are many types of aphasia. These are usually diagnosed based on which area of the language-dominant side of the brain is affected and the extent of the damage."

On Thursday, the Willis family issued a joint statement sharing the new diagnosis news. "As a family, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for the outpouring of love and compassion for Bruce over the past ten months," the statement began. "Your generosity of spirit has been overwhelming, and we are tremendously grateful for it. 

"For your kindness, and because we know you love Bruce as much as we do, we wanted to give you an update," the family went on to say, then sharing, "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."

Finally, the Willis family statement added, "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."