(CNN) Simple walking tests can accurately diagnose a type of dementia that may sometimes be reversed when identified early and quickly treated, a study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology found.
Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus, or iNPH, affects the walking ability and mobility of the elderly, with additional symptoms that include urinary urgency, incontinence and in some cases mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
Usually, iNPH goes undiagnosed because its symptoms mimic those of other neurological disorders. In particular, doctors confuse it with an incurable form of dementia known as progressive supranuclear palsy, or PSP.
A series of experiments suggest that a simple walking exam can accurately distinguish iNPH from PSP up to 97% of the time, according to the German researchers.
“Worldwide, the portion of the elderly is growing. This will inevitably go along with an increased total number of dementias and gait disorders,” said Dr. Charlotte Selge, lead author of the study and an assistant physician in the Neurological Clinic Grosshadern at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.
If older patients are routinely given walking tests, those with a reversible form of iNPH might be identified and receive treatment early enough to overcome their illness.
Past studies show that shunt surgery to divert cerebrospinal fluid effectively cures many patients.
Walking the walk
For the study, Selge and her colleagues analyzed and compared the “gaits” or walking styles of 38 patients diagnosed with PSP, 27 patients diagnosed with iNPH and 38 healthy volunteers.
Though most participants hovered around age 70, none of them needed a cane or aid to walk 30 feet or more. Read the full story at CNN.