According to a statement from his family, Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with aphasia, a condition that affects his cognitive abilities.
The National Aphasia Association estimates that more than 2 million Americans suffer from varying degrees of aphasia. It is often caused by strokes or brain injuries, but can also develop over time from brain tumors or progressive neurological diseases.
People can be affected by aphasia at any age, but the majority of those diagnosed are “middle-aged or older,” according to the National Institute of Health.
Two categories of aphasia exist: fluent and nonfluent. A person with fluid aphasia generally has difficulty understanding speech, or speak in “long, complete sentences that have no meaning,” according to the NIH. This condition is caused by damage to the temporal lobe. In individuals who have a frontal lobe injury, nonfluent aphasia can result in Broca’s aphasia, which may impair speech and cause a speaker to use short phrases or fewer words, even though they generally understand speech better.
However, aphasias can take many forms, with different symptoms.
“Almost all aphasia patients have trouble finding the correct names for people, places, things, and events,” the Cleveland Clinic notes.
The majority of people suffering from aphasia as a result of a brain injury will not recover their language and cognitive functions on their own. Language and communication rehabilitation programs can help.
According to the National Institutes of Health, drug therapies are also being explored as an “experimental approach” to treating cancer.
A few studies are exploring whether chemical neurotransmitters in the brain can help improve language function when combined with speech-language therapy, according to the agency.
Willis’ family, including his wife and ex-wife, and five daughters, had announced his diagnosis via Instagram on Wednesday.
We are deeply grateful for the ongoing love, compassion, and support you’ve provided to our family during this difficult time. “We are moving forward as a family unit, and wanted to acknowledge the fans who have a special place in his heart,” the statement read, in part.
The details of Willis’ health issues and diagnosis were not disclosed.
Since 2020, Willis has starred in more than a dozen films, with several still in post-production.