American actor Bruce Willis will be quitting films following aphasia diagnosis, which is a language disorder. His daughter, Rumer Willis, took to Instagram to announce that the Die Hard actor “is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him”.

“To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his 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. This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. 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. As Bruce always says, “Live it up” and together we plan to do just that,” the note read.

Here’s what the medical condition is all about.

A language disorder, aphasia is caused due to damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. In most people, it is on the left-hand side that controls language capabilities.

Language has 6 main aspects
Fluency
Comprehension
Naming
Repetition
Reading
Writing

“It is mainly part of the dominant hemisphere (in right-handed person, mainly the left hemisphere and in left-handed people, may be in the right hemisphere in the brain). Various illnesses such as stroke , tumours, or degeneration involving the dominant hemisphere may cause language deficits known as aphasia,” explained Dr Ashish Gosar, consultant neurologist, Masina Hospital.

The medical condition leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others — ability to speak, read, write and listen. Experts say that aphasia can happen as a result of stroke. “A stroke is the most common reason for Aphasia which causes blood loss in the brain leading to cell death or damage to the areas that control language. Thus, an Aphasic person may not be able to speak, write or understand the language,” said Dr Ehteshaam Khatri, speech therapist at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road.

According to HopkinsMedicine.org, aphasia is caused by damage to the language-dominant side of the brain, usually the left side, and may be brought on by:

Stroke
Head injury
Brain tumor
Infection
Dementia

“It is currently unknown if aphasia causes the complete loss of language structure, or if it causes difficulties in how language is accessed and used,” it stated.

Types of aphasia

According to American Stroke Association,

Wernicke’s Aphasia (receptive)

*Say many words that don’t make sense.
*Use the wrong words; for instance, you might call a fork a “gleeble.”
*String together a series of meaningless words that sound like a sentence but don’t make sense.

Broca’s Aphasia (expressive)

*Injury to the frontal regions of the left hemisphere impacts how words are strung together to form complete sentences. This can lead to Broca’s Aphasia, which is characterised by:

*Difficulty forming complete sentences.
*Leaving out words like “is” or “the.”
*Saying something that doesn’t resemble a sentence.
*Trouble understanding sentences.
*Making mistakes in following directions like “left, right, under and after.”

Global Aphasia

*A stroke that affects an extensive portion of your front and back regions of the left hemisphere may result in Global Aphasia.

*One may have difficulty understanding words and sentences.
*Forming words and sentences.

Stroke can cause aphasia (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Depending on the type of aphasia, an individual may also have Oral weakness (Dysarthria) and may also have issues with swallowing (Dysphagia), said Dr Khatri.

Diagnosis

According to Mayo Clinic, the treating doctor will give a physical and a neurological exam, test the patient’s strength, feeling and reflexes. Imaging test, usually an MRI is prescribed to quickly identify what’s causing the aphasia.

Treatment

The recommended treatment for aphasia is usually speech and language therapy. Sometimes aphasia improves on its own without treatment. This treatment is carried out by a speech and language therapist (SLT) . “Opt for speech, language and swallowing therapy. These therapies will help you to improve your speech and understanding of language. Even family members of the patient with aphasia can help him/her to improve their speech by using appropriate communication strategies. There are certain apps that can help create sentences or generate speech,” said Dr Khatri.

American Stroke Association states that it is important for family and well-wishers to help.

“Some people mistakenly think those with aphasia aren’t as smart as they used to be. But they can think; they just can’t say what they think,” it reads.

You can help people with aphasia express themselves by:

Asking yes/no questions.
Paraphrasing periodically during conversation.
Modifying the length and complexity of conversations.
Using gestures to emphasise important points.
Establishing a topic before beginning a conversation.

Prevention

Since the main cause of aphasia is a stroke, stroke prevention can lower the chances of aphasia. “Try to exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet, control blood pressure, quit smoking and alcohol, de-stress by doing yoga or meditation,” said Dr Khatri.

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