Understanding Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a condition wherein there is an excessive build up of fluid in the brain. The condition usually is present at birth but may also develop later on. The excess fluid in the brain can cause extensive damage to the fragile brain tissues by pushing them against the skull which can also lead to death.

Causes of hydrocephalus

The brain normally floats on cerebrospinal fluid that keeps it cushioned. There are times when the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid is disrupted from going into the bloodstream, resulting and imbalance of the amount of cerebrospinal fluid. The excess fluid causes pressure to build up on the brain.

Symptoms of hydrocephalus

The symptoms of hydrocephalus may differ and vary by age group and its progression. In infants, the most common symptom would be an abnormally growing head size. There can sometimes be a bulging soft spot on the top of the head and the infant’s eyes usually are fixed downward.

Other symptoms include sleepiness, irritability and developmental delay. For older children developing hydrocephalus, commons symptoms include headaches followed by vomiting, blurred vision, memory loss, balance and coordination problems, sluggishness and frequent mood changes.

How hydrocephalus is diagnosed?

Diagnosis of congenital hydrocephalus for an unborn child can usually be discovered during a pre-natal ultrasound. During infancy, the condition may initially be diagnosed with the infant’s head regularly measured during growth monitoring.

A visibly enlarged head of an infant may lead doctors to recommend taking an ultrasound. Other tests may include taking CT and MRI scans for older children developing hydrocephalus.

How to prevent hydrocephalus?

Prevention of the condition depends on several things. Regular pre-natal check ups for pregnant women may help diagnose the condition early and might help prevent complications arising from hydrocephalus during childbirth.

Protecting the head of an infant from head injuries may also help. Some infections may lead to meningitis that also causes hydrocephalus to develop. Regular immunizations may help prevent this from happening or more likely reduce the risks.

How to treat hydrocephalus?

The most effective and common treatment for hydrocephalus is through surgical means by inserting a drainage system in order to keep the fluid flowing normally and with the other end usually tunneled into another part of the body where the excess fluid may be readily absorbed into the bloodstream. The drainage system called the shunt may be required by most hydrocephalus patients for the rest of their lives.

Another surgical option involves the doctor making a hole in one of the obstructed ventricles in the head in order to allow the excess fluid to have a means of flowing toward the base where it can be absorbed normally by the body.


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