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NPH versus Alzheimer's: misdiagnosis is not uncommon

In Pennsylvania and across the United States, a condition known as normal pressure hydrocephalus, or NPH, closely mimics Alzheimer's disease and other types of conditions, including Parkinson's disease. However, unlike Alzheimer's disease, NPH is a treatable condition. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 people in the United States have NPH, yet many of these individuals have not been diagnosed correctly.

Scientists do not know what causes NPH, a condition in which an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid is found in the ventricles of the patient's brain. In actuality, NPH is the grown-up version of a disease occurring among newborns called hydrocephalus. An untreated patient with NPH displays similar symptoms to a person who has Alzheimer's, including incontinence and severe memory problems. In most cases, the treatment for NPH involves inserting a shunt in the brain.

A shunt helps drain the excess fluid, and most patients improve after the surgical procedure is completed. However, it is worthwhile noting that NPH is more difficult to treat once the condition progresses. Research shows that approximately 5% of the 5.2 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia actually have NPH. Nevertheless, people with NPH still experience tremendous difficulties compared to a person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Nonetheless, their symptoms may pale in comparison with those of a person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Even though misdiagnosis is a major issue for some people, Alzheimer patients should not automatically jump to conclusions. A person who has been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia may want to speak with a medical malpractice lawyer. An incorrect diagnosis may mean that the person never had a chance to improve their situation via the help of a brain shunt. Consulting with a personal injury attorney may help clarify the issue.

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