Hydrocephalus

Also called: Water on the brain

Hydrocephalus is the buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Normally, this fluid cushions your brain. When you have too much, though, it puts harmful pressure on your brain.

Hydrocephalus can be congenital, or present at birth. Causes include genetic problems and problems with how the fetus develops. An unusually large head is the main sign of congenital hydrocephalus.

Hydrocephalus can also happen after birth. This is called acquired hydrocephalus. It can occur at any age. Causes can include head injuries, strokes, infections, tumors, and bleeding in the brain. Symptoms include

  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Balance problems
  • Bladder control problems
  • Thinking and memory problems

Hydrocephalus can permanently damage the brain, causing problems with physical and mental development. If untreated, it is usually fatal. With treatment, many people lead normal lives with few limitations. Treatment usually involves surgery to insert a shunt. A shunt is a flexible but sturdy plastic tube. The shunt moves the cerebrospinal fluid to another area of the body where it can be absorbed. Medicine and rehabilitation therapy can also help.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

The following features are indicative of Hydrocephalus:
  • headache
  • vomiting and nausea
  • blurry vision
  • balance problems
  • bladder control problems
  • thinking and memory problems
It is possible that Hydrocephalus shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Hydrocephalus

The following are the most common causes of Hydrocephalus:
  • an imbalance between cerebrospinal fluid production and its absorption into the bloodstream
  • head injuries
  • strokes
  • bleeding in the brain

Risk Factors for Hydrocephalus

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Hydrocephalus:
  • abnormal development of the central nervous system
  • bleeding within the ventricles
  • infection in the uterus during a pregnancy
  • lesions or tumors of the brain or spinal cord
  • bacterial meningitis

Prevention of Hydrocephalus

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Hydrocephalus. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • protect against infections and other illnesses
  • Meningitis vaccination
  • get regular prenatal care
  • use appropriate safety equipment
  • always wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle

Occurrence of Hydrocephalus

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Hydrocephalus cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Not common between 50K - 500K cases

Common Age Group

Hydrocephalus can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Hydrocephalus can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Hydrocephalus:
  • Ultrasound: To produce images and to detect hydrocephalus prior to birth
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): To produce detailed 3-D or cross-sectional images of the brain
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan: To produce cross-sectional views of the brain

Doctor for Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Hydrocephalus:
  • Neurosurgeon
  • General practitioner
  • Pediatrician
  • Pediatric neurologist

Complications of Hydrocephalus if untreated

Yes, Hydrocephalus causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Hydrocephalus is left untreated:
  • can cause death
  • intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities

Procedures for Treatment of Hydrocephalus

The following procedures are used to treat Hydrocephalus:
  • Shunt system: This shunt system drain out the extra cerebrospinal fluid
  • Endoscopic third ventriculostomy: To enable cerebrospinal fluid to flow out of the brain

Self-care for Hydrocephalus

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Hydrocephalus:
  • Self care during pregnancy: Reduces the risk of premature labor
  • Use safety equipment: Reduces the risk of head injury

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Hydrocephalus

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Hydrocephalus:
  • Rehabilitative therapies: Enhances the skills for activities of daily living

Patient Support for Treatment of Hydrocephalus

The following actions may help Hydrocephalus patients:
  • Support group: Provides education and support to the patient
  • Parents support: Provides emotional support to the child

Time for Treatment of Hydrocephalus

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Hydrocephalus to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 6 months - 1 year

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Hydrocephalus.
Brain Malformations
Chiari Malformation

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