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What do Bruce Willis, Emilia Clarke and Sharon Stone have in common? Aphasia

Every time I read that a famous person has been diagnosed with a sign or symptom, I remember that most of the media lack scientific consultants to be more rigorous. Very recently, it was that Marc Márquez had been “diagnosed” with diplopia (which, as we explained in another article, is a sign and not a disease in itself). This time it was the turn of actor Bruce Willis, 67 years old and with more than 70 films behind him, to be diagnosed with aphasia but…

What is aphasia? Why happens?

Aphasia is an acquired impairment of language ability . It is usually the result of damage or injury to the cerebral cortex of one of the hemispheres (the dominant one, which varies depending on whether you are right-handed or left-handed). Interestingly, the neuromuscular structures necessary for language are often intact.

Types of aphasia

As always in medicine, the matter could not be so “simple” and this is no exception. There are different types of aphasia . Some characteristics that help us identify the type of aphasia are comprehension, fluency and the ability to repeat words (the latter is something that only those with what is called transcortical aphasia can do). Be that as it may, something that all aphasias have in common is that in all of them there is a difficulty in finding words (this is called “naming”). For example, two of the most well-known aphasias are Broca’s aphasia (comprehension is good, but fluency, repetition, and naming are affected), and Wernick’s aphasia (in this case, fluency). is good but the person is not able to understand the rest). There are also paraphasias (the person substitutes one word for another, always, without being able to remedy it. For example, his own name for “banana”). It gets in the way of a person’s ability to communicate, but it doesn’t affect intelligence. It can range from mild to severe depending on the damage.

So why isn’t it a disease in itself?

Signs and symptoms are the observed or detectable signs and symptoms experienced of an illness, injury, or condition. A sign, for example, may be a temperature that is higher or lower than normal, high or low blood pressure, or an abnormality that shows up on a medical exam. A symptom is something unusual that an individual experiences, such as a fever, headache, or other body aches or pains.

Aphasia is a sign , an alteration that functions as a sign. This means that the underlying cause has yet to be elucidated .

What are the possible causes of aphasia?

You may be reading these days that aphasia can appear suddenly after a stroke or develop slowly as a result of a tumor . True, but there are more possibilities. For example, there are some neurological diseases that progress slowly but progressively and that can face this sign. In this group of diseases we would find demyelinating diseases (such as multiple sclerosis), cortical dementias (dementias that mainly affect our cerebral cortex, head trauma, etc.

What happened to Bruce Willis?

Actress Demi Moore , ex-wife of Willis, has just announced on her Instagram account that Bruce Willis, best known for his role in the Die Hard movie franchise, will stop acting after being “diagnosed with aphasia”.

The exact message was:

To the incredible fans of Bruce, as a family, we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and was recently diagnosed with aphasia, which is affecting his cognitive abilities. As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is walking away from the career that has meant so much to him.

This is a truly challenging time for our family and we are so grateful for your continued love, compassion, and support. We’re going through this as a strong family unit and we wanted to engage his fans because we know how much he means to you, just like you do to him.

As Bruce always says, “Live it up” and together we plan to do just that.

Love,

Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel y Evelyn

The underlying cause of Bruce’s aphasia has not been made public. When this happens, the most likely cause is a stroke, but as we have seen, there are many other possibilities, so at the moment there are no clear answers regarding the case of Bruce Willis.

Is it frequent?

The truth is that, with so many neurological conditions that can cause aphasia, we cannot say that it is uncommon . So much so, that Bruce is not the first celebrity to suffer from this condition, there are many more!

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone has starred in several well-known movies, such as Basic Instinct or Casino . In September 2001, at the height of his career, he suffered a brain aneurysm .

A brain aneurysm is a bulge or swelling in a blood vessel in the brain. A brain aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

During the months that followed Sharon Stone’s recovery, she experienced many of the problems common to a hemorrhagic stroke, including aphasia. Initially he couldn’t memorize his lines , but with a lot of work, time, and some luck, he got better . Today Stone is 63 years old and continues to be an actress.

Emilia Clarke

Clarke played Daenerys Targaryen, the mother of dragons, on Game of Thrones, surviving two aneurysms after finishing the show’s first season. The first left her with aphasia .

While recovering from her first life-threatening aneurysm in 2011, her brain trauma left her “muttering nonsense” and unable to remember her own name at just 25 years old. Since then, the popular actress has thankfully recovered and even founded a charity called SameYou that focuses on helping those with acquired brain damage.

Randy Travis

Travis suffered a stroke in 2013 that left him unable to speak or move without assistance . He spent more than two years in daily therapy to regain the ability to perform basic tasks. Travis has severe aphasia , but can still sing a few words at a time.

Terry Jones

One of Monty Python’s Flying Circus members, Terry Jones, began experiencing speech difficulties in 2014 and unusually couldn’t remember his lines. Jones was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2015.

Can you recover from aphasia?

If the damage to the brain is mild , a person may regain their language skills without treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. But regaining language skills is often a slow process, and “few people regain full pre-injury levels of communication.”

Speech and language therapy can help some people regain language function, learn other methods of communication, and make further progress. Certain medications are being studied to treat aphasia .

People with aphasia sometimes wear something that explains that they have aphasia . You may also find it helpful to carry a pen and notebook . Unfortunately, this is not always effective. Aphasia can affect speaking, understanding, writing, and reading.

Because of this, aphasia can be very lonely, isolating . Imagine not being able to communicate with your friends and family. Imagine not being able to understand what they are telling you. But aphasia doesn’t have to always be so lonely. In fact, if you know someone with this condition, it can be very helpful for a person with aphasia to know that you are trying to help them communicate.

References:

Aphasia Definitions (s.f.). National Aphasia Association. https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-definitions/
Moore, D. [@demimoore] (2022, 31 de Marzo). [Post de Instagram]. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cbu-mD7LMPg/
Bloom, D. (2022, 30 de Marzo). How Aphasia Steals the Ability to Communicate. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/well/mind/aphasia-symptoms-treatment.html
Bhargava, H.D. (2020, 16 de Septiembre). Aphasia. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/brain/aphasia-causes-symptoms-types-treatments
Jameson, J.L., Fauci, A.S, et al (2020). Harrison’s Manual of Medicine (Ed.20). McGraw-Hill.
 

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