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Patients Misdiagnosed As Having Alzheimer's Can Get Their Life Back

It is a disease similar to Alzheimer's, but this one has a treatment that can give patients years of their life back.

Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease that affects patients and also those who love them. But what if the symptoms of Alzheimer's were really those of another disease?

Here's the story of a man who was misdiagnosed and missed 20 years of his life.

Milton Newman has always had a lot to sing about. He was a stage performer, but one day, the singing stopped.

"When I heard the word 'Alzheimer's', I was ready to die. To me, Alzheimer's was a death sentence."

For 18 years, Phyllis watched her husband fade away, but then they learned about another disease that looks like Alzheimer's, but is much more treatable. It's called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, also known as NPH.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Harold Rekate explains NPH. "Because it's a plumbing problem, your spinal fluid builds up in your brain and causes it to become squeezed."

To help Milton, Dr. Rekate simply drained the extra fluid. He says NPH can be detected on scans or by performing a spinal tap. But knowing the difference between Alzheimer's and NPH is also key.

Alzheimer's patients are irrational, disoriented and forgetful. Patients with NPH shuffle when they walk, experience mild memory loss and are often incontinent. Knowing these signs could save a loved one's life.

Dr. Rekate says, "If I see somebody in a restaurant who is shuffling like this in his 60's or 70's, I want to go up and grab him and tell him, 'I can help you.'"

Milton has certainly been helped. Phyllis says, "Everything improved. He started to be more like himself."

On average, it takes about seven to nine years for most people to realize they have NPH and not Alzheimer's.

Dr. Rekate says there are more than 35,000 people in the U.S. who have been misdiagnosed or don t know they have NPH and can be helped.

If you'd like more information on NPH, go to www.allaboutnph.com


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