EastEnders Barbara Windsor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, her husband has confirmed.
Barbara’s partner, Scott Mitchell revealed to the Sun that the 80-year-old had been given the news in April 2014.
The 55-year-old said in spite of the actress taking regular medication to manage her condition, in recent weeks her symptoms had worsened.
"Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it's becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.
I'm doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn't quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer's and will accept it for what it is."
"I hope speaking out will help other families dealing with loved ones who have this cruel disease. Secondly, I want the public to know because they are naturally very drawn to Barbara and she loves talking to them," he added.
The star’s partner added that his wife was aware that he was making her diagnosis known to the public.
"She often asks me, 'Do the public know that I'm not well?' And she asked me again this morning," he said.
"I said they didn't yet, but we were going to have to let them know because so many people are talking now. But if she forgets that she gave me her blessing, well, I'll just have to deal with that."
In 2000, Windsor was made an MBE and a Dame in 2015 for services to drama.
In 2009, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at The British Soap Awards.
Dame Barbara appeared in nine Carry On films and played the role of EastEnders' pub landlord Peggy Mitchell.
The actresses career started at the tender age of 13 in a pantomime and was soon performing in the West End musical Love From Judy.
Looking back, Mr Mitchell said he spotted the signs of the illness when his wife found it difficult to learn her lines in 2009, just before she left EastEnders for the first time, but they didn't think anything of it.
However, it was in early 2012, when Barbara began to repeat certain sentences and stories, that they thought it was time to investigate.
Following a series of mental agility tests and a brain scan, Mr Mitchell said, she was diagnosed.
On hearing the news, he recalls that Barbara mouthed the words "I'm so sorry" towards him.
"I squeezed her hand back and said, 'Don't worry, we'll be OK'", he told the newspaper.
Upon hearing the news Tim Parry, director at Alzheimer's Research UK, said to the BBC:
"We are saddened to hear of Dame Barbara's diagnosis with Alzheimer's. It's to be congratulated that Scott is speaking out to encourage other affected individuals and families to do the same when it's right for them.
"It's important to bring the disease out into the open as a crucial step towards us tackling it. Alzheimer's is a physical disease, in the same way that cancer or heart disease are, and there shouldn't be stigma in being open about it."
Mr Parry described Dame Barbara as a "much-loved figure on our screens and in public life," and added that his heart goes out to her and her family.
“We hope she is able to maintain and enjoy her quality of life for as long as possible."