May 17 (ABC7) — Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease that affects patients and also those who love them. But what if the symptoms of Alzheimer’s were really those of another disease? One man was misdiagnosed and missed twenty years of his life.
Milton has always had a lot to sing about. He would even perform on stage. But one day, the singing stopped.
Milton Newman, misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s: “When I heard the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ I was ready to die. To me, Alzheimer’s was a death sentence.”
For eighteen-years, Phyllis watched her husband fade away.
But then they learned about another disease that looks like Alzheimer’s but is much more treatable. It’s called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus – also known as NPH.
Harold Rekate, M.D. neurosurgeon: “Because it’s a plumbing problem, your spinal fluid builds up in your brain and causes it to become squeezed.”
To help Milton, Doctor Harold Rekate simply drained the extra fluid. He says NPH can be detected on scans or by performing a spinal tap. But knowing the difference between Alzheimer’s and NPH is also key.
Alzheimer’s patients are irrational, disoriented, and forgetful. Patients with NPH shuffle when they walk, experience mild memory loss, and are often incontinent. Knowing these signs could save a loved one’s life.
Harold Rekate, M.D. neurosurgeon: “If I see somebody in a restaurant who is shuffling like this in his 60’s or 70’s, you know, I want to go up and grab him and tell him, ‘I can help you.'”
Just as he helped Milton.
Phyllis Newman, Milton’s wife: “Everything improved. He started to be more like himself.”
Milton Newman, misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s: “I have something that I can live for.”
And now, he has even more to sing about. Researchers say there may be more than 35,000-people in the US who have been misdiagnosed or don’t know they have normal pressure hydrocephalus.
Worse still, on average, it takes seven-to-nine years for most people to realize they have NPH and not Alzheimer’s.