A Complete Guide to Post Cortical Atrophy: What You Need to Know

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Today, it is estimated that over 700,000 Americans suffer from normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), yet less than 20% have ever received a proper diagnosis. Unfortunately, NPH is regularly misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or incorrectly attributed to the normal aging process. According to the Hydrocephalus Association, anywhere from one to five percent of dementia diagnosis are expected to be NPH. 

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia (LIAD) Center, we are proud to offer day programming and caregiver support solutions for all forms of dementia. Let's take a closer look at normal pressure hydrocephalus to learn more about the condition as well as how we can help. 

What Is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus?

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a brain condition where additional cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in the ventricles of the brain. This causes the ventricles in the brain to become enlarged— sometimes with very little or no increase at all in the intracranial pressure. However, the abnormal buildup of pressure does put extra pressure on the brain. 

As the brain ventricles enlarge with extra fluid, CSF pressure can disrupt and damage local brain tissue. Normal pressure hydrocephalus can occur in someone at any age, but is most likely to occur in the elderly. 

What Are the Symptoms of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus? 

The following symptoms are understood to be the hallmarks of normal pressure hydrocephalus:

NPH Can Lead to Complications Walking

These symptoms can be severe to mild. But in most instances, those with NPH struggle to pick up their feet. Many describe it as if their feet are stuck to the floor. And this can cause complications going up stairs, shuffling of feet, and problems stepping up curbs. It also can lead to an increased risk of falling.

Dementia-Like NPH Symptoms

NPH commonly leads to dementia and dementia-like symptoms, which is why NPH is often misdiagnosed with dementia. Those whose who suffer from NPH often experience: 

  • Short-term memory loss 
  • Confusion
  • Changes in mood 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble paying attention 
  • Lack of interest in daily activities

Incontinence Symptoms 

A third common symptom associated with NPH is incontinence. In addition to the inability to hold urine, it can include a strong feeling of needing to urinate as well as frequent urination.

Reduced Cognitive Abilities

Those living with NPH  may experience a decline in thinking skills, such as the slowing of their ability to process thoughts. Other cognitive abilities that may be impacted include:

  • Reduced concentration
  • Impaired decision making
  • Personality changes
  • Apathy
  • Changes in behavior
  • Altered planning skills

What Causes Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus?

In most instances, those over the age of 60 are most likely to develop the condition. While the cause of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is usually unknown, NPH can be the result of other conditions that impact the brain, such as: 

  • Meningitis and other types of infections
  • Bleeding around the brain from strokes and other types of head injuries
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Tumor
  • Infection

However, it's important to understand that many people develop the condition when none of these conditions are present. 

How Is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Diagnosed? 

Considering NPH symptoms are very similar to those of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the condition is regularly misdiagnosed or overlooked. Although there are a few key hallmark symptoms, every individual with the condition will not experience the same symptoms. To confirm NPH, one or more than one of the following tests are typically conducted.

Clinical Examination for NPH

As we mentioned, the clinical symptoms of NPH can overlap with other forms of dementia. Because of this, experts suggest anyone suspected to have NPH undergo a thorough examination by a seasoned neurologist who has experience evaluating brain disorders associated with physical functions, thinking skills, and movement. 

Brain Imaging for Diagnosing NPH

One of the key ways to diagnose NPH is through the use of brain imaging technology. By utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or the CT scan, your doctor can detect the enlargement of your ventricles. 

Cerebrospinal Fluid Tests Can Help Diagnose NPH

Cerebrospinal fluid tests can also be used to determine shunt pressure or predict shunt responsiveness. 

Contact Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center Today

Receiving a diagnosis of NPH, Alzheimer's disease, or any other type of dementia can be alarming. However, the professionals at the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center can provide the support you need. We offer a range of different supportive solutions designed to help you and your loved one live a high quality of life. 

Contact the LIAD Center today to learn more about the services we offer and how we can help. Visit www.lidementia.org or call (516) 767-6856 today.