In February last year the family of Bruce Willis shared the devastating news that the actor had been diagnosed with dementia. Specifically, the Die Hard star had been living with a less common form of the condition, known as frontotemporal dementia.

With frontotemporal dementia (or FTD), both the front and sides of the brain are affected. And while dementia is more common among older people, FTD is more prevalent among those aged between 45 and 64.

It also develops slowly, with symptoms gradually worsening over years. From the outset of symptoms, average life expectancy for those with FTD is around seven years but it can be as low as just two.

Although there is no cure, the sooner you spot the symptoms the sooner you can get the right treatment and support for the affected person.

One expert shared signs of FTD to look for via social media platform TikTok. Speaking to her 168,000 followers, Doctor Jen Caudle said: “The symptoms are something you really should know about.”

According to Dr Caudle, these symptoms include:

  • Changes in behaviour or personality
  • Lack of interest in things
  • Compulsive behaviours
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Difficulty understanding written and spoken language
  • Difficulty moving.

Explaining more about behavioural changes she said: “A person may have a loss of empathy or like problems with interpersonal skills.

“They may not express judgement as well or they might have a loss of inhibition.

“They also might have a lack of interest, just no longer be interested in things which can actually be mistaken for depression.”

She listed some other symptoms. “Sometimes there’s compulsive behaviours,” Dr Caudle said.

“Sometimes they’re smacking lips or clapping or things that people do all the time and there even may be other changes.

“Decline and personal hygiene or changes in eating habits as well.”

Memory problems can occur with FTD but these may not be the main sign.

Dr Caudle said: “This is a type of dementia where memory can be involved but it’s not necessarily the forefront symptom.”

Prior to his diagnosis, Bruce Willis had retired from acting due to aphasia, a language disorder which makes it difficult to communicate.

She continued: “They might have increased difficulty using an understanding written and spoken language.

“No longer knowing what certain words mean, having hesitant speech, things like that.”

She added: “There’s also types that involve more motor related symptoms. Things like people may have tremors or rigidity, even muscle spasms.

“They might have problems with coordination or might have falls, muscle weakness. So you see the symptoms really can range, they really can be on a spectrum.”

At the time of his FTD diagnosis, the family shared a detailed statement with the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.

It read: “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, finally having a clear diagnosis is a relief.”

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