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Wendy Williams is diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia

Wendy Williams, the former TV talk show host and shock jock, has been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia, her medical team announced.

In a news release Thursday, her team said Williams, 59, received her diagnosis last year and that the conditions have already "presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life."

"Wendy is still able to do many things for herself," her team said, noting that she is appreciative of the kind thoughts and wishes being sent to her. "Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed."

News of her latest medical diagnosis comes days ahead of the Lifetime premiere of Where is Wendy Williams? — a two-part documentary detailing her health battles following the end of her syndicated talk show in 2022.

Williams, the former TV host of The Wendy Williams Show, stepped away from the world of broadcasting following a series of health issues. (Williams also has Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid.)

In 2022, due to her ongoing health battles, it was announced that her syndicated daytime talk show would end after a 13-year run on TV.

Williams' team says they shared the health update this week to "correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health," as many fans have been concerned, yet confused over the last few years about her physical health and financial well-being.

In 2022, the 59-year-old was placed under temporary financial guardianship after her bank, Wells Fargo, raised concerns — claiming in a New York court that she is an "incapacitated person," The Hollywood Reporter reported.

What exactly is aphasia?

Aphasia is defined as a condition that affects the ability to speak, write and understand language, according to the Mayo Clinic. The language disorder can occur after strokes or head injuries — and can even lead, in some cases, to dementia.

Medical experts say the impacts of the disorder can vary, depending on the person's diagnosis. But mainly, the condition affects a person's ability to communicate — whether written, spoken or both.

Nearly 180,000 people in the U.S. acquire the condition each year. Most people living with aphasia are middle-aged or older, as the average age of those living with the condition is 70 years old. However, anyone, including young children, can acquire it.

Dr. Jonathon Lebovitz, a neurosurgeon specializing in the surgical treatment of brain and spine conditions at Nuvance Health, told NPR in 2022 following the diagnosis of actor Bruce Willis, that a person's condition depends on the exact portion of the brain that's impacted.

"In most patients that have aphasia, it is a symptom of a larger medical issue," Lebovitz said.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia, commonly known as FTD, is one of several types of dementia that cause nerve damage in the frontal and temporal lobes — which leads to a loss of function in those areas, according to theAlzheimer's Association.

FTD can also disrupt motor function and movement, which could be classified as Lou Gehrig's disease — otherwise known as ALS.

There are two different types of frontotemporal dementia: Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, which causes nerve loss in the areas of the brain that control empathy, judgment and conduct, and primary progressive aphasia (PPA) — the form Williams has, which affects language skills, speaking, writing and comprehension.

About 30% of people with frontotemporal degeneration inherit the disease. The underlying causes of FTD are unknown.

What are the treatment options for aphasia and FTD?

For those who are diagnosed with aphasia, there are several treatment options available.

Traditionally, most people undergo a form of speech and language therapy to restore their communicative skills. Additionally, there are ongoing clinical trials that use brain stimulation and may help improve one's ability to regain skills.

So far, no long-term research on aphasia has been conducted yet.

When it comes to FTD, there are medications that can help relieve symptoms but with time, the disease eventually gets worse.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.
Ayana Archie