Reversing Dementia: Is is NPH? - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Reversing Dementia: Is is NPH?

(Source: Ivanhoe Newswire) (Source: Ivanhoe Newswire)

PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - Normal pressure hydrocephalus or NPH is a condition that many have never heard of, but it can cause a person to lose the ability to walk and talk normally. And because the symptoms are similar to dementia or Parkinson’s, it’s a condition that can be easily overlooked. But unlike dementia, if doctors diagnose NPH, they can often reverse it.

Sixty-eight year old Joe Mehl is back on his feet. For months, his family watched as he started to decline mentally and physically.

“I started to shuffle,” Joe says.

Mary Mehl feared she was losing her husband to dementia. Then came a doctor’s diagnosis.

“I had never heard of normal pressure hydrocephalus. It sounded terrifying,” says Mary.

NPH mimics dementia or Parkinson’s with one tell-tale difference.

Dr. Nestor D. Tomycz, a neurosurgeon at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh explains, “The gait in normal pressure hydrocephalus is often described as a magnetic gate, where patients almost seem as if their feet are stuck to the ground.”

With NPH, excess fluid accumulates in the brain’s ventricles. Doctors have to perform a spinal tap to confirm the condition. Then many patients with NPH can be treated by inserting a shunt into the brain.

“That basically drains the brain water from the brain down into the peritoneum,” Dr. Tomycz says.

Just a few days after Joe’s procedure, he began to respond.

“It was stunning,” says Mary. “He literally did a 360.”

Joe says, “I was able to talk. I was able to speak. I was able to walk.”

Doctors say it is very difficult to tell how many people have NPH, because the symptoms of this condition are similar to other brain disorders.  So far, researchers have not found effective non-surgical treatments for it.

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