What is aphasia? Bruce Willis backs away from acting amid diagnosis

(Nexstar) — Bruce Willis is turning away from acting after he was recently diagnosed with aphasia, a condition that “affects his cognitive abilities,” according to a statement shared by his family.

Aphasia, which can cause varying degrees of impairment in speech or language comprehension, currently affects more than 2 million Americans, according to estimates by the National Aphasia Association. The condition often results from a stroke or brain injury, but it can develop over time due to brain tumors or progressive neurological disease.

Aphasia can affect people of any age, although most of those diagnosed are “middle-aged or older,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are several different types of aphasia that fall into two categories: fluent and non-fluent. Fluent aphasia generally develops from damage to the temporal lobe, and can lead to a common form of the condition called Wernicke’s aphasia, which may cause a person to have difficulty understanding speech, or to speak “in long, complete sentences that don’t make sense,” writes the National Institutes of Health. Non-fluent aphasia, more commonly found in people with frontal lobe damage, can lead to Broca’s aphasia, a type that may impede speech and cause a person to speak in short phrases or smaller words, despite having a better understanding of speech in general.

However, there are many forms of aphasia that may have different symptoms.

“Nearly all aphasia patients have difficulties finding words — that is, coming up with the correct name for people, places, things, or events,” notes the Cleveland Clinic.

Patients with aphasia as a result of a brain injury may recover some of their language and cognitive abilities on their own, although many may not. Rehabilitation programs that focus on speech and language therapy can be more helpful.

Pharmacological therapies are also being explored as an “experimental approach” to treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Some studies are testing whether drugs that affect chemical neurotransmitters in the brain can be used in conjunction with speech and language therapy to improve the restoration of various language functions,” the agency wrote.

Willis’ family, including his wife, ex-wife, and five daughters, posted a statement on Instagram announcing his diagnosis on Wednesday.

“This is a challenging time for our family and we deeply appreciate your continued love, sympathy and support. We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and we wanted to attract his fans because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him,” the statement read in part.

No further details were released about Willis’ diagnosis and health issues.

Willis, 67, has appeared in more than a dozen films since 2020, many of which are still in post-production.

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