What is aphasia, the disease suffered by Bruce Willis?

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Actor Bruce Willis announced his retirement from the stage a few weeks ago. The decision, according to a statement, was caused by the aphasia that the interpreter has suffered for a few years, which prevents him from performing adequately on film sets.

Aphasia is “a language disorder. When it has already been acquired, it usually passes into adults and is due to changes in the brain such as strokes, hemorrhages, tumors or some other pathology that alters the brain circuits. It is super common to see it in patients who have a stroke,” commented Annel Gómez Coello, an academic from the Graduate Studies Division of the Faculty of Medicine.

The specialist added that those patients with aphasia have difficulties following instructions and recognizing words or repeating them, likewise, their language is not fluent, which is why they have complications in structuring sentences – “their language is telegraphic, spaced out, it is the word for word”–.

“There are many types of aphasia, some that occur less frequently present, for example, difficulty in naming objects by name. That is, we show them glasses and they cannot tell us that they are called glasses or they say it is something that is used to see, but they cannot say glasses, they cannot access their dictionary”, said Gómez Coello and added:

“(For its treatment) we first have to know what type of aphasia it is, because there are many types and it depends on the classification to define the treatment. There are aphasias that do very well with therapy, they manage to recover almost all of their language, but it depends on how close the process starts to when the event happened.”

Likewise, the researcher pointed out that it is necessary to distinguish aphasia from other diseases related to memory loss, since patients do not forget events but are incapable of naming them.

“It is as if we lost the dictionary in our head, we cannot access it. For example, memory disorders are usually linked to events in our lives, be they immediate or remote memory. That is the difference, ”he stressed.

Different from dysphasia

Although they share grammatical roots, it is essential to separate aphasia from dysphasia, since the latter “is a term that has been used since more or less the 50s and 60s, and causes a lot of controversy among psychologists and speech therapists.” –that we dedicate ourselves to communication–, in essence, it is an alteration in the structuring of language”.

“Children have difficulty structuring a language, they cannot say sentences or short phrases, they cannot even connect the words. In general, it is difficult for them to express themselves and this generates a great conflict with the environment because they are children. They are not doing well at school and, despite the fact that we put them in therapy, sometimes the progress we want is not achieved,” said Gómez Coello.

The academic from the Faculty of Medicine added that to diagnose dysphasia it is necessary to make a diagnosis of exclusion, this means that other conditions must be ruled out over time before reaching this disorder.

“People should know that these conditions, although there is no cure, do have treatment. They must be evaluated by a specialist, who will carry out the specialized tests and refer the patients to therapies, depending on what we find”.

He stressed that any language problem after the age of 3 should be attended to by a specialist: “parents sometimes go to pediatricians and tell them that the children are very spoiled. In the event of any suspicion, I suggest that you go to any DIF unit, to Pilares, which also provide therapy, or to children’s hospitals, such as the National Rehabilitation Institute, which is the largest therapy service in the country”.

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