‘Resersible’ dementia?

In some cases, dementia is reversible/treatable. In some rarer cases, the progressive changes are caused by a ‘problem with the system of liquid that circulates in the central nervous system.

In this interesting article in the Times Colonist (a newspaper in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), you can find an interesting introduction to this idea. Also, you may want to read more about normal pressure hydrocephalus.  In short, NPH is caused by some fluid accumulating in the brain which will eventually put slight pressure on the brain, causing the cognitive decline.

How to spot it? Here is the usual ‘triad’ :

  • cognitive decline – change in thinking skills
  • incontinence – change in ability to manage bathroom needs
  • change in walk (gait) – change in the way a person walks

Don’t hesitate to talk to your GP about these symptoms if you notice your loved one has changed. Knowledge is power!  Also, talk to your GP about brain imaging if you have early cognitive decline! In some cases, taking an image of your brain will help the clinicians in their diagnostic processes. A brain imaging is not always necessary though: your GP will refer you to brain imaging if necessary 🙂

Now, how is this kind of dementia treatable? Well, during surgery the neurosurgeon will place a tube, called a shunt, into the brain to drain the excess fluid. By reducing the excess fluid, the brain usually recovers. However, if the cognitive decline has been going on for too long, some of the damage may be irreversible as the person’s difficulties may have progressed too much. Early diagnosis is key.

The shunt is usually inserted into a ventricle in the brain and then passed under your skin from your head through your neck and chest to your abdomen. The extra fluid in your brain flows through the shunt into your abdomen, where your body absorbs it. The ventricles in your brain may then go back to their normal size. The shunt stays in place as long as there is too much fluid in the brain.