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Here’s what you need to know about Bruce Willis’ frontotemporal dementia

His family announced Thursday that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with dementia, following a diagnosis of aphasia last spring.

Willis has frontotemporal dementia, which can lead to aphasia, which affects his ability to speak and write.

Communication challenges are just one symptom of the disease Bruce is suffering from, his family said. “While it is painful, it is a relief to finally have a diagnosis.”

He stepped away from his decades-long career due to his impaired cognition last year, according to Willis’ family.

In frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, nerves in the frontal and temporal lobes are damaged, which causes loss of function in those areas, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

There are different types of frontotemporal dementia. In the Behavioral Variant of Frontotemporal Dementia, nerves in the empathetic, judgment and conduct areas of the brain are lost. Parts of the brain responsible for speaking, writing, and comprehension deteriorate with primary progressive aphasia. It typically begins before age 65, but can occur later.

The diagnosis of FTD usually occurs between the age of 40 and 60, while Alzheimer’s occurs later in life. Alzheimer’s is also more closely linked to hallucinations, memory loss, and spatial orientation issues.

In order to diagnose frontotemporal degeneration, doctors use brain imaging technology, such as MRIs. Results are analyzed along with the patient’s medical history and symptoms. About 30% of people with frontotemporal degeneration inherit it. There are medications that can help relieve symptoms, but the disease gets worse with time.

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