Bruce Willis’ frontotemporal Dementia diagnosis explained

Actor Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia at the age of 67.

The Die Hard star's family announced the news on Thursday evening in an emotional statement, saying: "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.

"To read our full statement and learn more about this disease please go to the link in our bio. In Love & Gratitude Ladies of Willis/Moore."

Frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language.

According to the NHS, it affects the front and sides of the brain (the frontal and temporal lobes) and it is usually caused by clumps of abnormal protein forming inside brain cells. These are thought to damage the cells and stop them working properly.

It's not fully understood why this happens, but there's often a genetic link.

While dementia mostly affects people over 65, frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age. 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 – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, or loss of motivation
  • language problems – speaking slowly, struggling to make the right sounds when saying a word, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly
  • problems with mental abilities – getting distracted easily, struggling with planning and organisation
  • memory problems – these only tend to occur later on, unlike more common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease

There may also be physical problems, such as slow or stiff movements, loss of bladder or bowel control (usually not until later on), muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing.

These problems can make daily activities increasingly difficult, and the person may eventually be unable to look after themselves.

There is no single test for frontotemporal dementia. Instead, blood tests, brain scans, a lumbar puncture, and assessments of symptoms and/or mental abilities can all be used to make a diagnosis.

There is currently no cure for frontotemporal dementia or any treatment that will slow it down, however there are treatments that can help control some of the symptoms, possibly for several years.

Treatments include:

  • medicines – to control some of the behavioural problems
  • therapies – such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy for problems with movement, everyday tasks and communication
  • – such as memory cafes, which are drop-in sessions for people with memory problems and their carers to get support and advice
  • support groups – who can offer tips on managing symptoms from dementia experts and people living with frontotemporal dementia, and their families

How quickly frontotemporal dementia gets worse varies from person to person and is very difficult to predict.

Home-based help will usually be needed at some stage, and some people will eventually need care in a nursing home.

The average survival time after symptoms start is around 8 to 10 years. But this is highly variable and some people live much longer than this.

Bruce's diagnosis comes after Bruce announced in March 2022 that he had been diagnosed with a brain condition and was retiring from acting.

The Hollywood legend shared at the time that he had been diagnosed with aphasia – a condition which has affected his cognitive abilities.


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