Hydrocephalus is a condition in which too much fluid builds up in the head and puts pressure on the brain. In Latin, hydro means "water" and "cephalus" means head. People commonly refer to hydrocephalus as "water on the brain." The water is actually cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
We all produce CSF that flows around the brain and spinal cord. Hydrocephalus can occur when a block in the flow of this fluid inside the brain develops. This causes swelling of the spaces in the brain called the ventricles. The swelling puts harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain. Another cause of hydrocephalus is when there is a problem absorbing the CSF fluid on the outside of the brain.
Hydrocephalus occurs most often in newborns. In children and adults, hydrocephalus can happen after a head injury or when there is a tumor, infection, or bleeding anywhere in the brain. Adults may develop hydrocephalus when the brain is damaged by stroke or when the body has trouble absorbing the fluid. Most of the time the cause is unknown.
The symptoms in infants include:
The symptoms of hydrocephalus in older children and adults include:
Your child's healthcare provider will examine and measure your child and ask about the symptoms. Your provider will suspect hydrocephalus if your child's head circumference is growing too fast. If the head is too large for your child's age, scans such as an ultrasound, CT scan or an MRI, may be done. Sometimes hydrocephalus can be diagnosed before a child is born.
Surgery is commonly done to treat hydrocephalus. The surgeon usually places a tube called a shunt, from the brain to the abdomen or blood vessels near the heart. This allows the extra fluid to drain. Repeat surgery may be needed if the shunt gets blocked or infected, or to lengthen the shunt tube as the child grows.
Hydrocephalus may be mild or severe. In mild cases, there may be normal intelligence and life span. In severe cases, the pressure on the brain may destroy brain tissue and result in brain damage and developmental disabilities.
Families who have a loved one with hydrocephalus may need counseling or support. Services available include public health agencies, social services and other agencies. For more information, contact
Web site: http://www.hydroassoc.org