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What is aphasia? Here's what you need to know after Bruce Willis' diagnosis

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Bruce Willis’ family has announced he will be stepping away from his acting career after being diagnosed with aphasia.

"Our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities,” Rumer Willis wrote on Instagram in a joint statement Wednesday from Bruce Willis’ family.

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

What we know about aphasia:

► Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs after damage to parts of the brain.

► Anyone can have aphasia, and it affects men and women equally.

► "Die Hard" and "Pulp Fiction" actor Bruce Willis' recently announced aphasia diagnosis highlighted the language disorder.

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a disorder that comes from damage to parts of the brain responsible for language, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.

Aphasia can affect the way a person expresses language and understands it. The disorder also can affect reading and writing.

Men and women are affected equally by aphasia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Most people with aphasia are middle-aged or older. It is not known whether aphasia causes a total loss of language structure or complications in how language is accessed.

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What causes aphasia?

Aphasia is caused by damage to “one or more of the language areas of the brain,” according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. A stroke is the cause of the injury to the brain most often, but other causes of brain injury include blows to the head, brain tumors, progressive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and more.

The severity of aphasia depends on multiple factors, including the cause of any damage to the brain and the severity of the damage.

What are symptoms of aphasia?

There are two main categories of aphasia: fluent and nonfluent. But there are multiple types within those categories. Symptoms can differ among different kinds of aphasia.

  • Wernicke's aphasia is the most common kind of fluent aphasia. It can cause people to speak in long sentences that “have no meaning,” including creating words, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

  • People with Broca’s aphasia may know what they want to communicate and understand speech, but they speak in short phrases instead. Broca’s aphasia is the most common type of nonfluent aphasia.

  • Global aphasia may cause people to be very limited in speaking or comprehending speech. They may be unable to say many words or understand some communication.

Can you recover from aphasia?

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

Speech and language therapy can help some people recover language functions, learn other communication methods and make additional strides. Certain medications are being studied for treating aphasia.

People with aphasia may want to carry a card explaining that they have aphasia, carry a pencil and a pad of paper and look to other communication options.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bruce Willis: What is aphasia? what causes it, and what are the types?