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What is frontotemporal dementia? Bruce Willis’ devastating health condition explained

Demi Moore revealed her ex-husband's condition has worsened

bruceiwllis aphasia ftd
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca LewisReporterLos Angeles
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Veteran Hollywood star Bruce Willis retired from acting in 2022 after being diagnosed with aphasia. The announcement regarding the 67-year-old's health was made by his family, with Bruce's wife Emma Heming Willis and ex-wife Demi Moore, who said in a statement that  the condition was "impacting his cognitive abilities".

Emma and Demi, along with his adult daughters Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah, shared an update in February 2023, revealing that "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," they added.

WATCH: Bruce Willis to step away from acting career after aphasia diagnosis

Symptoms typically start between the ages of 40 and 65, but Frontotemporal Degeneration— the condition named in doctors' updated prognosis for Willis — is the most common form of dementia for people under 60, and there are no treatments for the disease. FTD affects men and women equally, and there are no treatments for the disease.

"FTD occurs when abnormal proteins accumulate and clump together in brain cells called neurons," the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration's website reads. It is also thought that "a subset of familial FTD cases are genetic, or hereditary, in nature. They occur when a parent passes a genetic variant associated with FTD to their child".

Symptoms of FTD start gradually and progress steadily, and often include dramatic behavioral changes such as swearing, impaired judgment, emotional withdrawal from others, loss of energy, and less frequent speech.

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Bruce with his three daughters, ex-wife Demi (second left) and wife Emma (second right)

Aphasia is a condition most commonly found in people aged 65 or over which makes it difficult for someone to talk, read, understand and write.

Issues with speaking are a common symptom, with many people suffering from the condition making mistakes with how they phrase sentences — for example, choosing the wrong word or putting words together incorrectly.making mistakes with how they word sentences. 

The main treatments for the condition are speech and language therapy, in order to restore communicative functions and explore new methods of expression.

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Bruce welcomed Mabel and Evelyn with Emma 

The family's statement, signed by Emma, Demi, and Bruce's five girls - Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, and Evelyn - continued: "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.

"Your generosity of spirit has been overwhelming, and we are tremendously grateful for it."

Concluding the heartbreaking announcement, they added: "Bruce has always found joy in life – and has helped everyone he knows to do the same. It has meant the world to see that sense of care echoed back to him and to all of us. We have been so moved by the love you have all shared for our dear husband, father, and friend during this difficult time.

"Your continued compassion, understanding, and respect will enable us to help Bruce live as full a life as possible."

The letter was signed, "the Ladies of Willis/Moore."

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