Stanford Center for Memory Disorders

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

The ventricles are chambers in the brain that normally contain fluid. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid. Usually these chambers contain just the right amount of the fluid for normal brain function. Sometimes, however, too much fluid can build up in the ventricles. This accumulation of fluid leads to a condition is called normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH).

When excess fluid builds up, the ventricles enlarge and press against nearby brain tissue. This extra fluid can affect the shape of the brain and lead to brain damage. The condition, though rare, most often affects older adults, and its symptoms can be similar to those of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. A doctor familiar with these conditions can often tell the difference between these diseases and NPH after special testing. NPH may account for 5 percent of dementia cases in the U.S.

Facts about the disease

NPH can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including brain infections, bleeding in the brain, tumors, and injuries. It can also occur for no clear reason. Symptoms such as difficulty walking, urinary incontinence and cognitive changes may be experienced.

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