What is frontotemporal dementia? Bruce Willis’ diagnosis explained

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Hollywood actor Bruce Willis, who stepped away from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia last year, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) on Thursday.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration describes FTD as a group of brain disorders caused by degeneration of the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain that affects behavior, language and movement. Aphasia can be a symptom of it.

The association describes frontotemporal degeneration as “an inevitable decline in functioning,” with an average life expectancy of seven to 13 years after the onset of symptoms.

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According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, FTD happen when nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are lost, resulting in shrinkage of the lobes.

The most common types are frontal variant which affects behavior and personality, and primary progressive aphasia which affects communication.

Primary progressive aphasia, however, has two types: progressive nonfluent aphasia impacts the ability to speak while semantic dementia impacts the ability to use and understand language.

Causes and symptoms

While the causes of FTD are unknown, some researchers have linked specific FTD subtypes to mutations on several genes.

Some experts think that some FTD cases are inherited, however, the majority of people with FTD have no family history.Symptoms of FTD include behavior changes that can be extreme such as stealing, mood changes and agitation.

Some may also experience physical symptoms that include weakness and difficulty swallowing.There isn’t a specific test to diagnose FTD.

Once other disorders that have symptoms similar to FTD are ruled out, doctors may preform neurological exams or order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain.

Treatment to cure FTD or slow it from advancing are currently not available and doctors may prescribe medication to treat symptoms.

While FTD itself is not deadly, those who suffer from it can face a higher risk of catching other diseases that can be serious and fatal, such as pneumonia.

With The Associated Press

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