Imagine you or a loved one are walking normally, then slowly you start to shuffle. You lose bladder control, and possibly most frightening, your memory starts to fade. These are all symptoms that point toward Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. There is one little known condition that mimics these diseases, but NPH patients can get better.
Seventy-year old Betty Smith has plenty of energy to keep up with her rescue dogs Holly and Oliver. A little more than two years ago her family noticed she was having trouble walking.
Betty’s sister-in-law, Sandi Smith said, “We called it a waddle to begin with. She just seemed to kind of waddle.”
Then Betty began to fall whenever she changed directions. A neighbor had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, one of Betty’s worst fears.
“She had a very bright mind trapped in a body that couldn’t function,” Betty said.
Manoucher Manoucheri, MD, Internal Medicine, is director of the NPH Program at Florida Hospital.
“It is critical to diagnose NPH early; it is the only reversible condition you can actually help the patient with,” Dr. Manoucheri said.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a buildup of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain’s cavities. One of the obvious symptoms is a shuffling gait, much like this patient, posted on social media. Surgeons implant a shunt to slowly drain excess fluid from the brain.
“It is basically a tube placed in the ventricle and subcutaneously goes into peritoneal cavity,” Dr. Manoucheri explained.
For some patients, like Betty, when the pressure is gone they begin to recover. A few months after surgery, Betty was traveling with a friend to Budapest and her sister-in-law to Alaska. Betty says she’s better than normal.
Betty shared, “It’s this big smile on my face. I’ve had my own personal miracle. I’m very, very blessed.”
Dr. Manoucheri says with early diagnosis, many patients have their symptoms reversed. If the condition is not treated, it can worsen, and may cause death. In about half of the cases, a brain injury, caused by infection or trauma, causes the fluid buildup.