Dementia 75It is estimated that between five and ten percent of people diagnosed with dementia could actually have a treatable condition known as normal pressure hydrocephalus or NPH. NPH is a disorder involving an abnormal increase in cerebrospinal fluid that causes the brain to become enlarged. The condition can occur at any age but it’s most common over age 60.

While there are no cures for dementia, some forms are treatable and NPH is one of them. However, it goes undiagnosed because it mimics the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The symptoms of NPH include gait or walking problems, dementia and urinary incontinence. It is expected that the number of people seeking treatment will increase as baby boomers age and are insisting on treatment for their conditions.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a good recovery. Doctors may use a variety of tests to diagnose the disorder, including MRIs and CT scans. Patients may have a programmable shunt installed by a neurosurgeon that will drain excess fluid from the brain. The programmable valve can be adjusted on an outpatient basis when required, reducing the need for further surgeries to change the settings.

Experts hope groundbreaking research through the Adult Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network (AHCRN) will lead to new diagnostic methods and better treatments for people with NPH. The network includes multiple centers across the US and Canada, with a central data processing center. The initiative was launched last year with a $500,000 startup grant from the U.S. based Hydrocephalus Association. This allows researchers to access a large pool of adults with hydrocephalus to conduct scientific studies.