OU Health Breaks Down Aphasia Following Actor Bruce Willis’ Diagnosis

News 9 - April 1, 2022 8:37 am

NORMAN, Oklahoma – 

At age 67, Bruce Willis is no longer going to act after being diagnosed with aphasia.

Aphasia is a medical condition that can leave patients struggling to communicate.

“It can be listening to your reading, speaking your writing,” said Jennifer Tetnowski, a PhD Assistant Professor at OU Health.

Health experts said what causes aphasia is related to brain damage on the left side of the brain, but aphasia can result from a stroke, head injury, tumor or could even develop due to brain deterioration.

“They’ll need more time. They will need you to slow down while you are talking,” said Tetnowski. “They may need you to help them come up with words.”

Willis’ family did not say what caused his aphasia or the exact symptoms he is experiencing.

Right now, health experts said drug therapies are limited for the condition, but the best way to treat it is similar to preventing a stroke.

“When it comes to a progressive aphasia, there’s a lot of research out there that a healthy lifestyle will help, also staying engaged and socializing and not isolating,” said Tetnowski.

Less than 10% of the population are aware of what aphasia is, but more than 1,000,000 Americans deal with the condition.

“Because people with aphasia have trouble communicating, it is really hard to raise awareness,” said Tetnowski.

There are 180,000 new aphasia cases every year caused by brain damage.

OU Health has a group forum for aphasia that tackles education, socialization, motivation and building both awareness and community.


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