What is normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)?

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a condition that is caused by an abnormal build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles (cavities or spaces) of the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear liquid that circulates around the brain and spinal cord, cushioning and protecting them from damage. When people have NPH, they have an excess of cerebrospinal fluid because their bodies cannot properly drain and absorb the fluid. This fluid build-up can harm the brain.

The differences between NPH and other forms of hydrocephalus is that even though there is a larger than normal amount of CSF, the pressure inside the ventricles remains the same. This buildup of fluid causes symptoms to occur over time.

Who gets normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)?

Normal pressure hydrocephalus most often occurs in people over age 60.

How common is normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)?

It is difficult to know how many people actually have normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) because its symptoms are similar to other diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, or even the natural aging process itself. However, it is estimated that as many as 10 percent of people with dementia attributed to other disorders may actually have NPH.

What causes normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)?

The exact cause of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is not clear. In most cases of NPH, the cause of the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is unknown. However, in some cases, NPH can occur as a result of other conditions that affect the brain including:

What are the symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)?

There are three classic symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH):

  • Difficulty walking. This problem can be mild or severe. In many cases, people with NPH have trouble picking up their feet. Some describe it as feeling like their feet are stuck to the floor. This can lead to a shuffling walk and problems going up stairs and curbs. It also increases the risk of falling.
  • Dementia. This often involves confusion, short-term memory loss/forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, changes in mood, and a lack of interest in daily activities.
  • Problems with bladder control. Problems include urinary incontinence (the inability to hold urine), frequent urination, and a strong feeling of needing to urinate.

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