What does Bruce Willis have? And how common is it?
Recently, actor, Bruce Willis was announced to be diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Before this, he quit acting after an aphasia diagnosis. Aphasia is the loss of the ability to understand or express speech. The Willis family announced his condition has progressed since then. They now have a more specific diagnosis of FTD.
FTD called Pick’s disease or frontotemporal lobar degeneration happens when there is damage to the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This ailment can cause people to exhibit unusual behaviours, difficulty communicating, emotional problems, and trouble walking.
How common is Frontotemporal Dementia?
There are two main types of FTD. Primary progressive aphasia causes problems with speech, language comprehension, or making connections between objects and their names. Behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD) causes changes in people’s behavior and personality.
FTD is one of many types of dementia. There are four types of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia, according to the National Institute on Aging.
About 50,000 to 60,000 people are diagnosed with FTD in the U.S. per year, though this is likely an extensive undercount. FTD is about as common as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in people 45 to 65 years old. But generally, it’s far less prevalent than Alzheimer’s disease, which affects about 6 million Americans when people older than 65 are included.
What happens when one is diagnosed with FTD?
FTD has no cure. Some medications can be used to treat its symptoms. Such as medications for managing depression and anti-psychotics for treating behavioral problems. But there are no board-approved treatments precisely for this ailment.
About 60% of cases are considered “sporadic FTD,” meaning there is no clear reason or cause for the condition. The rest of the people living with the ailment tend to have a history of neurodegenerative disease in their family.
Many people diagnosed with FTD are younger than 60 and are still in their prime earning years or have families to raise. The impact on one’s finances can be disastrous. In addition, watching a loved one being taken from you slowly in front of your eyes is a uniquely devastating experience.
People who are living with dementia can partake in clinical trials to help progress researchers’ understanding of the condition. Each person will progress through FTD in diverse ways and at different paces. Therefore, it is vital to know that you can remain active and partake in activities you enjoy. You can work with family and friends to plan for the future and educate others about the disease.