Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid inside the skull, which leads to brain swelling. Hydrocephalus means "water on the brain."
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a rise in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain that affects brain function. However, the pressure of the fluid is usually normal.
There is no known cause for NPH. But the chance of developing NPH is high in someone who has had any of the following:
As CSF fluid builds up in the brain, the fluid-filled chambers (ventricles) of the brain swell. This causes pressure on brain tissue. This can damage or destroy parts of the brain.
Symptoms of NPH often begin slowly. There are three main symptoms of NPH:
Diagnosis of NPH can be made if any of the above symptoms occur and NPH is suspected and testing is done.
The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about the symptoms. If you have NPH, the doctor will likely find that your walking (gait) is not normal. You may also have memory problems.
Tests that may be done include:
Without treatment, symptoms often get worse and could lead to death.
Surgery improves symptoms in some patients. Persons with mild symptoms have the best outcome. Walking is the symptom most likely to improve.
Call your health care provider if:
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if a sudden change in mental status occurs. This may mean that another disorder has developed.
Hydrocephalus - idiopathic; Hydrocephalus - adult; Hydrocephalus - communicating
Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 59.
Rosseau G. Normal pressure hydrocephalus. Dis Mon. 2011;57:615-624.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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