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Curable Condition Mimics Alzheimer Symptoms

Curable Condition Mimics Alzheimer Symptoms

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Jinah Kim reporting Imagine sending a family member into a nursing home, thinking he or she has Alzheimer's disease. But in reality they have curable condition that mimics the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Today, Molly Bien is a healthy, vibrant 85-year-old. But not too long ago she could barely walk or talk. She developed bladder control problems and showed signs of dementia.

Molly Bien, 85 years old: "It was a mystery. I didn't know what to think - I'd always been so healthy."

Doctors at UCLA took scans of molly's brain and it showed that its center - the part that controls walking, bladder functions and lucidity - was filling with fluid. The condition is called NPH - normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Dr. Marvin Bergsneider/UCLA Division of Neurosurgery: "If you imagine there's a balloon inside the brain and it's blowing up on the inside and the brain is pushed against the skull."

Doctors surgically implanted a shunt inside her brain that constantly drains the fluid into her stomach. Within four months, Molly's brain - and her life - were back to normal.

Molly Bien, 85 years old: "My memory's so good, my family can't get over it.."

Dr. Bergsneider estimates as many as one in 40,000 Americans has NPH. But many don't realize they have it or think it's something worse - because they fail to get a simple brain scan. In fact, it's estimated a quarter million Americans may have been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's - when they actually have NPH.

UCLA is launching a national study on NPH this month and is looking for candidates.

Molly, meanwhile, considers herself lucky - and even wrote a poem in gratitude.

Molly Bien, 85 years old: "My thanks to Dr. Bergsneider for my complete recovery. With able hands and caring heart, he's given my life back to me."

Signs of "Normal Pressure Pydrocephalus" usually begin with walking difficulty, then progress to incontinence and dementia.

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