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YOUR HEALTH: Ruling out Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to find a solution

ORLANDO, Florida – 70-year old Betty Smith has plenty of energy to keep up with her rescue dogs Holly and Oliver.
A little more than two years ago her family noticed she was having trouble walking.

Her sister in law Sandi remembers it well.

"We called it a waddle to being with. She just seemed to kind of waddle."

Then Betty began to fall whenever she changed directions.

A neighbor had been diagnosed with Parkinson's.  It was one of Betty's worst fears.

"She had a very bright mind trapped in a body that couldn't function," Betty remembered.

Dr. Manoucher Manoucheri is in charge of the NPH program at Florida Hospital.

"It is critical to diagnose NPH early it is the only reversible condition you can actually help the patient with."

Normal pressure hyrdrocephalus is a buildup of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain's cavities.

One of the obvious symptoms is a shuffling gait, much like this patient, posted on social media.

Surgeons implant a shunt to slowly drain excess fluid from the brain.

"It is basically a tube placed in the ventricle and subcutaneously goes into peritoneal cavity," explained Dr. Manoucheri.

TREATMENT:   After diagnosis, patients enter the program and get complete neuropsychiatric evaluation before the lumbar drain placement.  Patients also get a physical therapy assessment including walk tests and gate assessment and the lumbar drain is placed; doctors remove fluid periodically for 48 hours.  On day three doctors do an assessment again with a neuro psych evaluation and physical therapy and then determine if there is sufficient improvement in any of those parameters.  Patients usually show improvement within a week.

For some patients, like Betty, when the pressure is gone they begin to recover.

A few months after surgery, Betty was traveling with a friend to Budapest and her sister-in-law to Alaska.

Betty says she's better than normal.

"It's this big smile on my face," she said.

"I've had my own personal miracle. I'm very, very blessed."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.