Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) is an abnormal increase of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain’s ventricles which causes the ventricles to enlarge. NPH can occur in people of any age but it occurs most often in the senior population. Symptoms of NPH include mental impairment and/or dementia, problems walking (gait disturbance) and impaired bladder control which results in urinary frequency or loss of bladder control (incontinence). Although the cause of NPH is often unknown, NPH can be caused by head trauma, infection, a tumor or cyst within the cranium (the portion of the skull which encloses the brain), complications of cranial surgery and bleeding within the brain. A variety of examinations and studies are used to diagnose NPH including a thorough history and physical, a CT scan of the brain, an MRI of the brain, CSF drainage and neuropsychological examinations. Treatment of NPH usually involves the surgical placement of a shunt within the brain which then drains the excess amount of CSF into the abdomen. Some patients are not candidates for surgical treatment. The symptoms of NPH are similar to the symptoms found in other disorders that commonly affect the senior population including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Many cases of NPH are unrecognized and therefore, never properly treated. Early diagnosis and treatment improves the chance of a good recovery. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of NPH, be sure to discuss the possibility of NPH being the cause for those symptoms with your physician. If NPH is suspected, an evaluation by a neurologist should be obtained.