Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

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Adult Hydrocephalus Program

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Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a type of hydrocephalus that usually occurs in adults age 60 or older. It also can occur in younger adults, but that is less common. NPH occurs gradually over time.

Symptoms of NPH are similar to the symptoms of dementia. Sometimes adults are told they have dementia, but they really have NPH. When NPH is properly identified, treatment is successful more than 80 percent of the time.

Neurosurgeons at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute have one of the few programs in the United States dedicated to diagnosing and treating adults with NPH. If a doctor has told you – or a loved one – that you have dementia, you may want to consider learning more about NPH and asking for a second opinion with our team at Swedish.

What is normal pressure hydrocephalus?

When the body’s system of producing and draining CSF does not work right, CSF builds up slowly in the ventricles. In an adult, this condition is called normal pressure hydrocephalus or NPH. For a while, the ventricles expand to make room for the extra fluid. Eventually, however, the fluid puts pressure on the brain. The pressure causes symptoms that are similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Because NPH usually occurs in adults who are 60 years old or older, it may seem as if the patient has dementia.

What are the symptoms of NPH?

NPH has three main symptoms:

  • Trouble walking, standing or balancing (gait)
  • Trouble remembering things or identifying familiar objects (cognition)
  • Trouble controlling your bladder (urinary incontinence)

Some patients also complain of headaches or dizziness.

When to ask whether it’s dementia or NPH

You should be evaluated by a doctor to see if you have NPH if you are 60 years old or older and have all three NPH symptoms at the same time or a doctor has told you that you have dementia.