What is Hydrocephalus and what are its symptoms?

By Adrianna • Health • 23 Sep 2013

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid begins to build up in one area of the brain. Although cerebrospinal fluid is naturally surrounds the brain, for various reasons, it can begin to gather in one area. This leads to pressure on the brain cells and can create a variety of problems. Occasionally this condition is referred to as water on the brain; however, this term is not accurate as cerebrospinal fluid is not water.

The conditions that lead to hydrocephalus
Cerebrospinal fluid serves an important function in the human body. This fluid serves to cushion the brain from the skull. This fluid also protects the spinal cord and is contained in what is called the ventricular system. In the skull, the cerebrospinal fluid also helps to keep the brain buoyant. Two other important functions are to deliver nutrients to the brain and remove waste, and finally, cerebrospinal fluid helps to regulate the amount of blood contained in the brain. With the function of this fluid performing several important tasks, it is important that it remains in a healthy state.

What happens that creates hydrocephalus
The cerebrospinal fluid remains in a fairly constant volume. It is produced and then absorbed at a steady race. However, there are certain conditions in the body that will cause a blockage of this absorption process, and fluid will begin to build up in a certain area of the brain. The fluid build-up will cause pressure to be exerted on the brain cells, and this leads to the condition called hydrocephalus.

The root causes of hydrocephalus
Medical science is still researching the cause of this problem, and to this day, they are not sure exactly why it occurs. Like many conditions, there is probably a strong genetic component with many people who develop this condition. When this condition is present at birth, it is often linked to babies born prematurely. It is also commonly seen with traumatic head injuries.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus
Other than problems with newborns and injuries to the head, those that develop this problem may not suffer any major symptoms other than a headache, but it is often one that will not go away. For adults, many of the symptoms are dependent upon a person’s age. Younger and middle-aged adults may feel dizzy at times or have blurred vision. Sometimes there will be an issue of balance where walking or standing can be difficult. There are other more minor symptoms, but how a particular symptom will manifest itself is dependent upon the individual. The only way to be certain that you have hydrocephalus is to have a brain scan.

Treatment for Hydrocephalus
The most common treatment for this condition is surgery. A shunt is installed to relieve the pressure. This shunt consists of a tube that allows the excess fluid to drain away. The tube is placed so the fluid is moved to an area where it will be absorbed. This approach works, but the shunt needs to be monitored. Sometimes it will fail, or need to be adjusted.

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