What is frontotemporal dementia? A closer look at Bruce Willis’ diagnosis - what the NHS say about condition

The actor was diagnosed with aphasia in 2022, but received a more specific diagnosis after it progressed - with his family confirming he has frontotemporal dementia

The family of actor Bruce Willis have confirmed  the Die Hard star has been diagnosed with dementia. The 67-year-old is one of the world’s most renowned actors, starring in movies such as Pulp Fiction, Red and more.

In spring last year, Willis was diagnosed with aphasia which causes difficulties with speech, but this has progressed and he has now been given a more specific diagnosis, his family confirmed on Thursday night (February 16).

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Posting to her Instagram account, Willis’ wife, Emma Heming Willis, said: “Our family wanted to start by expressing our deepest gratitude for the incredible outpouring of love, support and wonderful stories we have all received since sharing Bruce’s original diagnosis.

“In the spirit of that, we wanted to give you an update about our beloved husband, father and friend since we now have a deeper understanding of what he is experiencing.

“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.”

What condition does Bruce Willis have?

As mentioned above in the statement released by his long-term wife, Emma Hemming, Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. It is the most common form of dementia in people under 60.

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According to the NHS, “Frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language. Dementia is the name for problems with mental abilities caused by gradual changes and damage in the brain.

“Frontotemporal dementia affects the front and sides of the brain (the frontal and temporal lobes).Dementia mostly affects people over 65, but frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age.

Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. (Credit: Getty Images)Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. (Credit: Getty Images)
Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

“Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 45-65, although it can also affect younger or older people. Like other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse over several years.”

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia can include: personality and behaviour changes, language problems, problems with mental abilities and memory problems, although the latter tends to happen later on.

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Dementia UK also gives a statistic on frontotemporal dementia, stating that ‘FTD is a rare form of dementia affecting around one in 20 people with a dementia diagnosis.’ Currently,  there is no known prevention or cure for FTD.

For anyone going through this too, Dementia UK has also released an in-depth segment on how to best manage frontotemporal dementia, which can be viewed on their official website.

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