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Here’s what to know about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia after Wendy Williams’ diagnosis

The care team for Wendy Williams on Thursday provided an update on the popular media personality’s health, announcing that the 59-year-old has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

Williams’ team in the press release explained they decided to share the update to “correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health.” They stated that Williams in 2023 was officially diagnosed with the disease after she underwent “a battery of medical tests.”

“Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy’s ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy’s condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions,” the statement said.

Aphasia is a disorder that impacts an individual’s language and communication abilities while frontotemporal dementia, which is a progressive condition, affects behavior and cognitive functions. Aphasia is linked to damage on the left side of the brain and is often a symptom of other medical issues like stroke, head injury or tumor. Its most common cause is brain damage resulting from a stroke while the cause of frontotemporal dementia is not known. Unlike other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia occurs at a younger age, between 40 and 65. Sometimes, frontotemporal dementia is misdiagnosed as a mental health condition or Alzheimer’s disease.

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA), which is a type of frontotemporal dementia, is related to the gradual loss of the ability to speak, read, write, and understand what others are saying, according to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.

The statement said the disorders have “already presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life.”

“As Wendy’s fans are aware, in the past she has been open with the public about her medical struggles with Graves’ Disease and Lymphedema as well as other significant challenges related to her health,” her team said elsewhere in the statement.

“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 statement also said.

“Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioral changes but have not yet received a diagnosis.”

Despite her condition, Williams’ team said the 59-year-old is still able to do many things on her own. “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,” the statement said.

Williams also expressed her gratitude for the support she has been receiving. The announcement about her condition was made two days before her new Lifetime documentary, “Where Is Wendy Williams?”, is set to be released, TODAY.com reported.

Williams, whose hit eponymous talk show was canceled in 2022 after 13 seasons, will touch on the rumors surrounding her health in the documentary that will also feature her family. 

Francis Akhalbey

A reader once told me I lack the emotional maturity to cope with mythological breasts. I support Manchester United, by the way. And L.A. Lakers.

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