What is aphasia? Condition Bruce Willis was diagnosed with communication disorders

On Wednesday, the family of action star Bruce Willis announced that the actor has been diagnosed with aphasiacausing him to retire from his career at the age of 67. Aphasia is a medical condition that makes it difficult for patients to understand and communicate with language.

According to Mayo Clinic, aphasia can start as communication difficulties. Someone with aphasia may have trouble finding the right words, substituting the wrong words, or speaking in short sentences that are difficult or impossible to understand. These problems are related to brain damage in the left side of the brain, which controls language, explains Johns Hopkins.

While its presentation can vary, aphasia is usually a symptom of a broader medical problem. It can be the result of a stroke, head injury, or tumor, or develop as a result of a degenerative brain disease.

While potential drug therapies are being tested, current treatment options are limited. Patients may undergo language and speech rehabilitation, which aims to restore as much language as possible and find other ways to communicate to replace language that has been lost for good.

“Language skills recovery is usually a relatively slow process,” Mayo Clinic says. “While most people make significant progress, few people regain the full pre-injury level of communication.”

In an Instagram post, Willis’s family wrote that the condition “affects his cognitive abilities,” but experts say aphasia is more accurately described as a language disorder than a cognitive disease.

“This is a truly challenging time for our family and we are so grateful for your continued love, compassion and support,” Willis’s family said in a statement. “We are going through this as a strong family unit and wanted to bring in his fans because we know how much he means to you, just like you do to him.”

Willis is best known for his starring role as John McClane in the action franchise ‘Die Hard’. He starred in dozens of films over a career spanning more than 40 years, including ’12 Monkey’, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ and the hit TV series ‘Moonlighting’ from the 1980s.

This story has been updated.

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