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What is aphasia? Wendy Williams, Bruce Willis diagnosis affects communication

Bruce Willis' aphasia diagnosis
What is aphasia? Bruce Willis diagnosed with condition that affects communication 00:56

Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a medical condition that leaves patients struggling to understand language and communicate. The TV star was also diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

Williams had taken a leave from her talk show in 2021 while she dealt with health issues, and in 2023, after undergoing "a battery of medical tests," she was diagnosed with the conditions, which affect language, communication behavior and function, according to a news release.

Her care team shared the health update on Thursday "to correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health." The 59-year-old was on occasion seen unable to form words and acted erratically, including during tapings of her talk show, which left many fans concerned and confused. 

Here's what to know:

Aphasia symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, aphasia can begin as trouble communicating. Someone with aphasia might have trouble finding the correct words, substitute the wrong words for each other or speak in short sentences that are difficult or impossible to understand. These issues are related to brain damage in the left side of the brain, which controls language, Johns Hopkins explains.

What causes aphasia? 

While its presentations can vary, aphasia is usually a symptom of a broader medical issue. It may result from a stroke, head injury or tumor, or develop due to a degenerative brain condition.

Bruce Willis aphasia diagnosis

Williams isn't the only celebrity to share an aphasia diagnosis. In 2022, the family of action star Bruce Willis announced that the actor has been diagnosed with aphasia, causing him to step away from his career at the age of 67.  

In an Instagram post, Willis' family wrote that the condition "is impacting his cognitive abilities," but experts say aphasia is more accurately described as a language disorder than a cognitive illness.

"This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support," Willis' family said in a statement. "We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him." 

Similarly to Williams, Willis was also diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, sharing the news in 2023. 

Caitlin O'Kane contributed to this report. 

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