May 01, 2021

Normal-pressure hydrocephalus

Fixing the flow

Lately, it's been getting more difficult to walk. It sounds strange when you try to explain it to your wife, but your feet feel like magnets stuck to the floor. You're pretty sure it's not just stiffness in your older age, but you're not certain it's bad enough to tell your doctor about it.

Actually, it's worth bringing up. This kind of difficulty walking — along with cognitive impairment and urinary incontinence — may be signs of a problem known as normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH).

Too much fluid

Inside your brain are several ventricles, which are open structures that hold cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid envelops your brain and spinal cord, and it's what allows your brain to float within your skull, protected from injury. This fluid is regularly absorbed by your blood vessels, so new fluid is continuously produced within the ventricles.

If something goes wrong in this process, it can result in too much cerebrospinal fluid within and around the brain (hydrocephalus). This can increase the size of your brain ventricles, potentially damaging brain tissue and impairing brain function.

This may happen for a variety of reasons. Something may be obstructing fluid from freely flowing from ventricle to ventricle, or perhaps your body cannot properly reabsorb the fluid.

The form of hydrocephalus most common in older adults is normal pressure hydrocephalus, so named because even though there is an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, the fluid pressure is normal when measured.

NPH may be caused by an event or condition such as head trauma, a tumor, meningitis...