Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) Sometimes Mistaken For Alzheimer’s

It sounds unbelievable, but it happens more often than we know. Thousands of Americans suffer for years from a condition and never realize it's completely treatable. Now, a former patient is sharing his story to help others get the help they need.

A few years ago, playing golf with his granddaughter was impossible for 74-year-old Bob Fowler. When Emma was a baby, Fowler wasn't even allowed to pick her up. "I fell two or three times and almost hit her. I was scared to death," said Fowler. His health and his family were slipping away, he said. Driving a golf ball to driving a car to running my home, business, all of that was dropping like a dive bomber and it was very frustrating," said Fowler.

He visited scores of doctors for nearly nine years and not one could tell him what was wrong. Then Fowler had an MRI and he received the diagnosis. – he had Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or NPH. The symptoms include a slow, shuffling walk, frequent urination, and dementia. But the biggest problem for doctors was trying to distinguish NPH from Alzheimer's

The Hydrocephalus Association said 375,000 people in the United States are affected by NPH. Many of them are mistaken for Alzheimer's patients. NPH is an abnormal build-up of fluid in the brain "It's like if you were to take a garden hose that is running and pinch the end of it, it would blow up. And that's what occurs to the ventricles," said Anthony Marmarou, a neurosurgery researcher. The problem is that, like Fowler, many patients with NPH are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.

But unlike Alzheimer's, NPH is reversible. The treatment involves an operation to insert a shunt, a device that diverts fluid from the brain to the abdomen. And 72 hours after surgery, most patients are nearly back to normal. If you suspect you or someone you know may have NPH, there is a simple screening test you can take. To take the test, click here. Copyright 2004 by ClickOnDetroit.com. All rights reserved.

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