Aphasia, the disease that has ended the acting career of Bruce Willis

The famous actor Bruce Willis announced Wednesday his retirement from the big screen following a diagnosis of aphasia, which is “affecting his cognitive abilities,” his family said in a statement.

Although details of the causes of Willis’ aphasia are unknown at this time, medical experts stress the importance of this brain condition and its specific treatment, depending on its severity.

Aphasia is defined as a cognitive condition that affects the ability to speak, write and understand language, according to the Mayo Clinic. This brain disorder can occur after strokes or head injuries and can even lead in some cases to dementia.

“As a result of this and much to his regret Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” his daughter, Rumer Willis, wrote on Instagram. “This is a truly challenging time for our family and we are so grateful for your continued love, compassion and support.”

Doctors say the impact of aphasia can vary depending on the diagnosis and how advanced it is but, basically, aphasia affects a person’s ability to communicate, whether written, spoken or both.

People with aphasia may experience changes in their ability to communicate, as they may have difficulty finding words, use words out of order or even speak tersely, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the condition depends on the exact part of the brain that is affected.

The disorder is more common than Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Most people with aphasia are older. The average age of aphasia sufferers is 70, but anyone, including young children, can have aphasia.

The most common cause of aphasia is stroke, with 25-40% of stroke survivors suffering from aphasia. People can also suffer aphasia as a result of head trauma, a brain tumor or a degenerative process.

In other words, aphasia is a symptom of a more serious problem and fortunately there are treatment options. Typically, most patients undergo some form of speech and language therapy to regain their communication skills.

In addition, there are ongoing clinical trials using brain stimulation that may help improve the ability to regain skills but no in-depth, long-term research has yet been done.

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