Symptoms of hydrocephalus in the elderly include memory loss, general cognitive decline, bladder-control or urinary frequency issues, balance issues and trouble walking, explains Mayo Clinic. Patients age 60 and older may report feeling as though their feet are planted when attempting to walk.
Hydrocephalus occurs when cerebral spinal fluid, or CSF, pools inside the ventricles of the brain, potentially causing an increase in intracranial pressure, notes the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. A form of hydrocephalus called normal pressure hydrocephalus is especially prevalent among elderly individuals. This type of hydrocephalus occurs when the pathways through which CSF drains become gradually blocked, causing the ventricles to expand to accommodate the excess fluid. The condition gets its name from the fact that there is often little or no increase in pressure due to the enlarged ventricles. However, pressure levels fluctuate substantially in some patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus.
There are three primary symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus: dementia, bladder-control issues and walking difficulties, states the AANS. Because most people with this form of hydrocephalus are above the age of 60, it is common for them to mistake these warning signs as normal signs of aging. In some cases, the dementia completely disappears if a doctor correctly diagnoses the problem and inserts a shunt to redirect the excess fluid away from the patient's brain.