Bruce Willis

What Is Aphasia? Here's What to Know About Bruce Willis' Diagnosis

Read more about aphasia, its symptoms, causes and treatments

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The family of Bruce Willis announced this week that the 67-year-old actor would be stepping away from his Hollywood career after being diagnosed with aphasia.

Willis' wife, Emma, along with his ex-wife Demi Moore and their three adult daughters Rumer, Tallulah and Scout shared in identical Instagram posts that his diagnosis "is impacting his cognitive abilities."

Read more about aphasia, its symptoms, causes and treatments below.

What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a condition that hinders the ability to communicate and can affect a person's ability to speak, write and understand language, according to the Mayo Clinic.

What Causes Aphasia?

The most common cause of aphasia is brain damage resulting from a stroke — the blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. Loss of blood to the brain leads to brain cell death or damage in areas that control language.

Brain damage caused by a severe head injury, a tumor, an infection or a degenerative disease also can cause aphasia. In these cases, the aphasia usually occurs with other types of cognitive problems, such as memory problems or confusion.

What Are the Symptoms of Aphasia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a person with aphasia may:

  • Speak in short or incomplete sentences
  • Speak in sentences that don't make sense
  • Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Not understand other people's conversation
  • Write sentences that don't make sense
The family released a statement Wednesday saying the diagnosis was impacting the actor’s cognitive abilities.

When to See a Doctor

Because aphasia is often a sign of a serious problem, such as a stroke, the Mayo Clinic urges anyone to seek emergency medical care if they suddenly develop:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Difficulty with word recall
  • Problems with reading or writing

How Is Aphasia Treated?

Some people may be able to regain some ability to speak and communicate, and many undergo speech therapy to aid in that process. Other treatments, including certain medications and brain stimulation, are being studied for their potential to treat aphasia.

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