You know Bruce Willis as a rough big-city cop in the “Die Hard” movies, but last year his family announced the actor would be taking a break from acting due to impaired cognition.
Now, they’re sharing a new diagnosis of a new form of dementia.
It came as a shock to many when Willis stepped away from acting. That’s when he learned he had an incurable brain disease.
Now it’s progressed to something worse.
Last year, his family said he had aphasia, which is a difficulty in speaking or understanding speech.
Now his condition progressed into frontotemporal dementia.
It is expected to affect between 50,000 and 60,000 people in the U.S., impacting their personality, behavior, language and movement.
Gail McKee with the Gulf Coast Alzheimer’s Association told WINK News this particular form of dementia is relatively rare and requires a careful medical evaluation.
“This one can be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, a psychiatric disorder, possibly depression, vascular dementia, or even Parkinson’s disease,” McKee said.
Other differentiators FTD, as it’s called, tends to have an earlier onset than Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia.
People are typically diagnosed in their 40s to 60s, that’s younger than Alzheimer’s and while Alzheimer’s is associated with memory loss, FTD is notable for speech problems.
No one knows precisely what causes it, but frontotemporal dementia has a genetic component in a third of cases.
“This dementia is inherited. So the risk factor for that when it is different in that this is the only risk factor is genetics and inheritance and family history,” McKee said.
There is no cure for dementia.
Willis’ family believes his last role will be one of bringing attention and awareness to this disease.
Willis is now 67 years old. That’s older than the typical onset, but his family has publicly said his symptoms started years ago.