NPH is the short form term for a three-word disease misdiagnosed all too frequently. I first learned about Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus from a colleague. She told me how her life had been impacted when her mother became ill and she took on the responsibilities of a full-time caretaker. All of the classic symptoms of NPH were present, but doctors were not picking up on them.
Unfortunately this is not uncommon because the disease is commonly confused with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Patients can be put on a series of medications, which in fact have no connection to their condition; time is squandered, finances are drained, and the patient deteoriates. The answers were available, if only the right questions had been asked.
A current leader in the field of procedures for spine and brain disorders, Dr. Santiago Figuereo, a board certified neurological surgeon and founder of the Miami Neurological Institute, walked me through a primer on NPH. He gave me a basic overview of the disease, how it can be treated and explained it occurs with greater frequency in people over 60 years of age. Many of the people he's seen have had their symptoms incorrectly mistaken for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the number one neurological disorder. Dr. Figuereo clarified that dementia is not a disease, it’s a symptom defining memory loss. The question to ask is, “Why does a patient have dementia?” Parkinson’s can lead to dementia; senile dementia happens in older people. Most importantly, not all memory loss issues are the same.