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Hydrocephalus - Symptoms and Treatment


Hydrocephalus , sometimes known as Water on the Brain , is a condition in which abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain causes increased intracranial pressure inside the skull . The ventricular system is made up of four ventricles connected by narrow pathways. Normally, CSF flows through the ventricles, exits into cisterns (closed spaces that serve as reservoirs) at the base of the brain, bathes the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord, and then is absorbed into the bloodstream. CSF is in constant circulation and has many important functions. It surrounds the brain and spinal cord and acts as a protective cushion against injury. CSF contains nutrients and proteins necessary for the nourishment and normal function of the brain. It also carries waste products away from surrounding tissues. Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an imbalance between the amount of CSF that is produced and the rate at which it is absorbed. Hydrocephalus can result when either too much CSF is produced (very rare), or when it is prevented from circulating or being reabsorbed - the two most common causes. As in these circumstances CSF is constantly produced but cannot get out, it accumulates and causes raised pressure inside the brain. The ventricles swell and the brain tissue is stretched and squashed. The skull bones in babies and young children are not fixed together as they are in later life, and the pressure causes the head to increase in size. However it is important to realise that hydrocephalus can also arise in older children and in adults, when the skull bones are fixed and the head cannot increase in size.

The term hydrocephalus is derived from the Greek words "hydro" meaning water and "cephalus" meaning head. The fluid that accumulates is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a fluid that normally surrounds your brain and spinal cord. Any excess CSF usually drains away from the brain and is absorbed by the body. For people with hydrocephalus, this doesn't happen, and the fluid instead builds up in the ventricles. Too much cerebrospinal fluid puts a harmful amount of pressure on tissues in the brain - treatment is needed to release this pressure. Hydrocephalus can be congenital (present at birth), or develop later in childhood or adulthood. Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a type of hydrocephalus, which usually develops in people over 60, because the drainage of the CSF gradually becomes blocked.

Causes of Hydrocephalus

Common causes and risk factor's of Hydrocephalus include the following :

  • Head injury, through the same mechanism as SAH, can result in hydrocephalus.
  • Idiopathic hydrocephalus represents one third of cases of adult hydrocephalus.
  • Tumors.
  • Meningitis.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

Some common Symptoms of Hydrocephalus :

  • Vomiting.
  • Irritability.
  • A rapid increase in the size of the head.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Seizures.
  • Nausea.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Memory loss.
  • Changes in personality.

Treatment of Hydrocephalus

  • Surgery to put in a shunt to remove the spinal fluid. This is done when the condition is getting worse and putting growing pressure on the brain and skull. Not all forms of hydrocephalus get worse. Less invasive procedures, such as endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV), are growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional surgery.
  • Removing fluid to reduce the pressure inside the brain. This provides only temporary relief.

 

 


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