Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a less common type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Bruce Willis, the renowned Hollywood actor, has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) at the age of 67.
In February, the Sixth Sense star's family provided an update on the actor's condition in an Instagram post shared by his ex-wife, Demi Moore:
'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.'
Here's everything you need to know about this condition.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), also known as Pick’s disease, is a type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The frontal and temporal lobes are responsible for controlling executive functions such as language, behavior, judgment, and emotion.
FTD typically affects people in their 50s and 60s, but it can also affect people who are younger or older, reports Dementia UK.
Types of FTD
According to Mayo Clinic, the cause of FTD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be caused by an abnormal build-up of proteins within the brain which damages the cells.
There are three main types of FTD, each with their own distinct set of symptoms and effects on the brain. These types are:
- Behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD): This type of FTD affects the frontal lobes of the brain and can result in changes in personality, behavior, and social skills. Signs of bvFTD include impulsive behavior, lack of empathy, inappropriate social behavior, and poor decision-making skills.
- Semantic dementia (SD): This type of FTD affects the temporal lobes of the brain and can result in a loss of language skills and the ability to recognize objects and faces. Signs of SD include difficulty finding the right words to express oneself, difficulty recognizing familiar objects, and difficulty understanding spoken or written language.
- Progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA): This type of FTD affects the frontal lobes of the brain and can result in a loss of language skills and difficulty speaking. Signs of PNFA include difficulty speaking fluently, difficulty finding the right words to express oneself, and difficulty with grammar and syntax.
Signs and Symptoms of FTD
The signs and symptoms of FTD can vary depending on the type of FTD a person has. Jagan Pillai, an expert from the Cleveland Clinic, explains:
'Not everyone shares the same symptoms. Depending on what part of the brain is primarily involved, you'll get certain symptoms.'
According to Healthline, some of the common signs and symptoms of FTD include:
- Behavioral changes: A person with FTD may exhibit inappropriate behavior, such as making inappropriate comments, acting impulsively, or engaging in socially unacceptable behavior.
- Emotional changes: A person with FTD may exhibit a lack of empathy or concern for others, or a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
- Language problems: A person with FTD may have difficulty understanding language or expressing themselves verbally. They may have trouble finding the right words or using grammar correctly.
Effects of FTD
The effects of FTD can be devastating, both for the person with the condition and their loved ones. FTD can result in a loss of independence and the ability to perform daily activities, as well as difficulty with social interactions and communication.
As the disease progresses, it can lead to a loss of mobility, muscle weakness, and tremors. In some cases, FTD can also lead to the development of other conditions such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis. And like other forms of dementia, FTD tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse over the years.
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, FTD does not affect memory, but a person’s personality, ability to communicate, and motor skills. Dr. Sami Barmada, director of Michigan Brain Bank tells TODAY.com:
'Most people, when they think of the word dementia, they think problems with memory and Alzheimer's disease, but FTD doesn't really show up as problems with memory. ... It affects how people behave, how they interact with others and how they speak.'
Treatments for FTD
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for FTD, and treatment options are limited. However, there are some therapies and treatments that can help to manage the symptoms of FTD and improve quality of life, reports Dementia UK. These may include:
- Medications: There are some medications that can help to manage the symptoms of FTD, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics.
- Speech therapy: For people with language difficulties, speech therapy can help to improve communication skills and maintain independence.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help to maintain independence and quality of life by providing support and tools for daily activities.