Wendy Williams diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia​ and frontotemporal dementia


Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia. Williams had taken a leave from her talk show in 2021 while she dealt with health issues, and in 2023, after undergoing “a battery of medical tests,” she was diagnosed with the conditions, which effect language, communication behavior and function, according to a news release.

Williams, 59, had been open to the public about her Graves’ Disease and lymphedema diagnoses. She initially took an indefinite leave from her long-running talk show, “Wendy,” which premiered in 2008. In 2022 it was announced that Sherri Shepherd would talk over the show as host.

Wendy Williams
File photo of Wendy Williams

Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Wendy’s care team shared the health update on Thursday “to correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health.” She was on occasion seen unable to form words and acted erratically, including during tapings of her talk show, which left many fans concerned and confused. 

What is aphasia?

Aphasia leaves patients struggling to understand language and communicate. The condition gained widespread attention when actor Bruce Willis revealed his diagnosis in 2022. He later revealed he was also diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

Aphasia is related to damage on the left side of the brain and is usually a symptom of other medical issues like stroke, head injury or tumor, or develops due to a degenerative brain condition, according to Mayo Clinic.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia, also known as FTD, describes a group of brain disorders that affect the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes, which are associated with personality, behavior and language, Mayo Clinic explains. 

It accounts for about 10% to 20% of dementia cases, second only to Alzheimer’s disease

About 50,000 to 60,000 people are diagnosed with FTD year and it may be under-diagnosed, Agus said. It is a progressive disease that will worsen and can require a lot of care, he said. 

Some people with FTD show dramatic changes in their personalities and can “become socially inappropriate, impulsive or emotionally indifferent, while others lose the ability to use language properly,” Mayo Clinic says.

Williams’ team said the decision to make her diagnoses public was a difficult one, but they decided to do so “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.”

They said Williams can still do many things for herself and “maintains her trademark sense of humor.” She is receiving the care she needs, they said.

–Sara Moniuszko contributed to this report.


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