What is aphasia? Bruce Willis is ‘stepping away’ from acting after diagnosis

Willis’ family said he was recently “diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities

Bruce Willis’ decision to end his acting career of more than four decades after a recent aphasia diagnosis has put a spotlight on the somewhat rare disorder.

Aphasia describes a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to communicate verbally or through writing. It affects an estimated 2 million people in the U.S., and nearly 180,000 acquire it every year, according to the National Aphasia Association.

Willis’ daughter Rumer Willis posted Wednesday on Instagram that the condition has affected her father’s “cognitive abilities.”

“As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” the post said.

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Rumer Willis’ mother, the actor Demi Moore, also shared the statement.


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The most common cause of aphasia is brain damage from a stroke. It can also arise as a result of a head injury, a brain tumor, an infection or a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s.

Willis’ family did not offer details about the cause of his aphasia.

Willis, an Emmy-winning actor and the star of hit movies like “Die Hard” and “The Sixth Sense,” turned 67 this month.

What causes aphasia?

Aphasia is caused by damage to one or more areas of the brain that deal with language, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Aphasia often occurs after a head injury or a stroke, which cuts off blood flow to areas of the brain responsible for speech, said Dr. Adam Boxer, a professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Other times, Boxer said, aphasia can develop gradually with the growth of a brain tumor, a neurological disease or an infection.

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