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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Wendy Williams diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and aphasia, reps say

TV personality Wendy Williams attends the 2019 NYWIFT Muse Awards at the New York Hilton Midtown on Dec. 10, 2019, in New York.  (Lars Niki/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Alexandra Del Rosario Los Angeles Times

Wendy Williams, who left her daytime talk show amid health and personal struggles two years ago, has been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

The beloved TV personality’s representatives confirmed her diagnosis in a statement shared with multiple outlets on Thursday. The statement details concerns over the 59-year-old star’s difficulty to process information, noting that she “began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions.”

The statement continued: “The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances,” the release said.

A representative for Williams did not immediately respond to the Times’ request for comment Thursday.

The rep’s missive added that people who have been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia are often subject to “stigma and misunderstanding” before their diagnosis.

Aphasia, a disease also afflicting “Die Hard” actor Bruce Willis, is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to understand and communicate with others.

The National Aphasia Association said the disease, which is “due to injury to the brain,” impairs the ability to process language but does not affect intelligence.

Frontotemporal dementia, also affecting Willis, is a progressive brain disease that impacts the frontal and anterior temporal lobes of the brain.

It’s the most common form of dementia for people who are diagnosed under the age of 60. In 2023, UC San Francisco neurologist Dr. William Seeley said an estimated 50,000 people in the United States live with FTD. It’s unclear what causes FTD.

The average life expectancy for people living with FTD is between seven and 13 years once symptoms are apparent, according to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Patients can take medications to alleviate FTD symptoms, but as of 2023 there was no treatment to stop or reverse the disease.

News of Williams’ diagnosis broke just days before the Saturday premiere of Lifetime’s documentary about the TV host and the personal struggles that followed her TV departure in 2022.