Misdiagnosed Alzheimers Could Be Curable NPH

Many people have the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s disease and are misdiagnosed with these diseases. What some might really have is NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus), which is curable.

Many people have the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s disease and are misdiagnosed with these diseases. What some might really have is NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus), which is treatable and curable.

As many as 400,000 Americans could have been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and dementia because they had symptoms that are common with those diseases. Symptoms include trouble with walking, talking, thinking and loss of memory. A simple MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test can find out if it really is Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or NPH.

People who were diagnoses with Alzheimer’s finally had an MRI only to find out that they didn’t have dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and what they did have is NPH or Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, a very treatable and curable neurological disorder

Symptoms of Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Dementia is a group of symptoms, affecting mainly the loss of mental functions, which include areas like memory loss, thinking and reasoning. Several medical problems and diseases can cause dementia. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are the most often heard about, other medical problems that can cause dementia include drug and alcohol abuse, vitamin or hormone imbalances and mixing and taking certain prescription medicines together. Further symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are trouble communicating by talking or writing. Becoming increasingly confused with their surroundings, trouble walking, personality changes and the inability to remember close friends and relatives.

Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease mainly include tremors. Tremors can start in one arm and then stop and start up again. This condition may be worse under conditions of stress or worry. After several months the tremors in the arm may begin to affect both arms. Other symptoms include a resistance to someone else moving your joints; this is known as rigidity. Posture and walking can become affected with a shorter gait to the persons walk leading to a shuffling of the feet.

Symptoms of NPH

The reasons for the misdiagnosis are the symptoms of NPH are very similar to dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. NPH usually affects people who are over the age of 60 and unfortunately could live the rest of their lives thinking they have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s when they could actually be treated for NPH and resume a normal life. The three most common symptoms of NPH are:

· Becoming forgetful and short-term memory loss. Forgetting something as simple as what they read 10 minutes ago. This is where the idea that the medical problem is dementia and Alzheimer’s.

· The persons gait or manner of walking is the shuffling of their feet. Some who have had NPH say they can spot someone who might have NPH instead of Parkinson’s just from their walk. Their gait is a giveaway that they could have NPH.

· The third main symptom of NPH is incontinence or loss of bladder control. This is usually the last of the symptoms.

Some end up in wheelchairs unable to walk and their dementia worsens. Not all of these symptoms have to be present for it to be NPH. Only a thorough neurological examination with a CAT scan or MRI can reveal if it is NPH or something else.

The Cause of NPH

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, NPH, is when there is too much fluid in the brain. The excess fluid on the brain can affect the nerves, which in turn cause the dementia and shuffling of their feet when walking. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid and is necessary to protect and cushion the brain and spinal cord from injury. The fluid also maintains proper nutrients throughout the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is produced in the brain every day and the bloodstream absorbs the same amount of fluid. When an imbalance occurs and the fluid builds up, a condition known as hydrocephalus occurs. If this condition continues, the pressure builds up and the symptoms of NPH worsen.

Treatments and Cure for NPH

People have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and not known for 10 years that what they really had was NPH and were finally cured of the condition. A 45-minute procedure to insert a shunt into the brain can now be done painlessly. The shunt is inserted into the brain that will drain the right amount of fluid from the brain, relieving and treating the symptoms of NPH.

Interviews with people that had NPH revealed that when they were misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s; neither a CAT scan nor an MRI was done; the patient and their families believed it was Alzheimer’s. Today, many former NPH patients are back to work and playing golf again and they can walk, talk, think and sleep just fine. In the past, most doctors didn’t realize their patient’s conditions could have been the very treatable NPH.

I urge anyone who has a relative or friend that have these symptoms to watch the following 60 Minutes interview with doctors and former NPH sufferers.

© 2010 Sam Montana

Resources

Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch

Life NPH

60 Minutes YouTube video

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