Hydrocephalus is caused by a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull, which leads to brain swelling. Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
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Types of Hydrocephalus:
  • Congenital hydrocephalus - this type is present when a baby is born.
  • Acquired hydrocephalus - this develops either at the time of birth or at a point afterwards. Acquired hydrocephalus can affect people of any age and it may be caused by injury or disease.
  • Communicating Hydrocephalus - this occurs when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked after it exits the ventricles.
  • Non-communicating hydrocephalus - this occurs when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked along one or more of the narrow passages which connect the ventricles.
  • Hydrocephalus ex-vacuo - this occurs when stroke or traumatic injury cause damage to the brain.

Causes of Hydrocephalus:
A build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain occurs when:
  • The flow of Cerebrospinal fluid is blocked
  • The cerebrospinal fluid does not get absorbed into the blood properly
  • The brain makes too much cerebrospinal fluid
Hydrocephalus may also be caused by genetic defects or certain infections during pregnancy. Hydrocephalus occurs in adults and the elderly but it most often occurs in young children.
In young children hydrocephalus may occur due to:
  • Infections that affect the central nervous system
  • Bleeding in the brain during or soon after delivery
  • Injury before, during, or after childbirth
  • Tumours of the central nervous system
  • Injury or trauma
When there is an excess of cerebrospinal fluid, this puts pressure on the brain and the brain is pushed up against the skull, resulting in damaged brain tissue.
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The symptoms of hydrocephalus depend on age, the amount of brain damage and the cause of the build up of cerebrospinal fluid.
If an infant has hydrocephalus, it causes their fontanelle or the soft spot on their head to bulge and the head becomes larger than normal. They may also have other symptoms such as stretched or swollen veins on their scalp, vomiting, irritibality or sleepiness.

The skulls of older children and adults cannot expand and some of the symptoms they experience are: headaches, vomiting, nausea, blurred vision, problems with balance, lethargy, drowsiness, changes in personality and memory loss.

Long Term Prognosis:
The prognosis is difficult to predict but there is a connection between the cause of hydrocephalus and the outcome. Hydrocephalus poses risks to both mental and physical development but there is a good chance of recovery if there is an early diagnosis and the individual goes for treatment. If hydrocephalus is left untreated then it may be fatal, and if a person survives they will have different amounts of intellectual, physical and neurological disabilities.

In some cases surgery may be performed to remove a blockage or a flexible tube called a shunt may be placed in the brain to re-route the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. The shunt sends cerebrospinal fluid to another part of the body, such as the belly area, where it is able to be absorbed.
Other treatments may include:
  • Antibiotics – given if there are signs of infection. A severe infection may require the shunt to be removed.
  • Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) – a procedure which relieves pressure without replacing the shunt.
  • Removing or burning away the parts of the brain that produce CSF.
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Hydrocephalus is most prevalent in babies and children and it is not as common in adults.

Hydrocephalus is not exactly able to be prevented but there are some ways to reduce the risk:
  • pregnant women should get regular prenatal care
  • protect yourself against infectious illnesses
  • protect the head of an infant or child from injury
Life-style Conditions
It is recommended that hydrocephalus patients should:
  • Avoid impact to their head and should not play and contact sports.
  • Avoid scuba diving because descending deep into the sea will increase the pressure on the body.
  • Avoid things such as smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol or taking drugs.

There are certain voluntary organisations which help people to cope with hydrocephalus.

Source of information
Source of information
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