The brain is complex yet delicate; there are many ways it can be negatively impacted. Today, we’re looking at what hydrocephalus is, its causes, symptoms and treatments. To begin, hydrocephalus is “the buildup of fluid in the brain’s cavities or ventricles.” It is normal to have some cerebrospinal fluid flowing through the brain’s ventricles as it helps protects the nervous system, removes waste, and nourishes the brain. However, when excess fluid begins to build, it creates pressure on the brain and can result in brain damage and a range of brain function impairments.

Hydrocephalus can happen to anyone but it is most common in infants and those over sixty years old. It is typically caused by an obstruction, which blocks the flow of brain fluid. It can also be congenital as 1 in 500 American babies are born with hydrocephalus or it can acquired from a stroke, brain tumor, meningitis or serious head trauma. Symptoms of hydrocephalus in adults include confusion, disorientation, or both; drowsiness and lethargy; headaches; irritability, which may get worse; lack of appetite; nausea; personality changes; problems with eyesight, such as blurred or double vision; seizures or fits; vomiting; and walking difficulties.

In infants symptoms includes breathing difficulties; arm and leg muscles may be stiff and prone to contractions; some developmental stages may be delayed, such as sitting up or crawling.  The fontanel, the soft spot; on the top of the head, may be tense and bulging outward.  You may also notice irritability, drowsiness, or both.  Other symptoms include unwillingness to bend or move the neck or head; poor feeding; the head seems larger than it should be; the scalp is thin and shiny and there may be visible veins on the scalp; pupils of the eyes may be close to the bottom of the eyelid, sometimes known as “the setting sun”; high-pitched crying; and possible seizures or vomiting.

Based on these symptoms for both adults and infants, hydrocephalus can be life-threatening, especially if treatment is delayed. The most common treatments for hydrocephalus are a shunt or a ventriculostomy. A shunt is the surgical insertion of a drainage system; a shunt means a thin tube with a valve is inserted into the brain to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid into a different place in the body. A ventriculostomy is when the surgeon makes a hole in the bottom of a ventricle so that the excess fluid flows towards the base of the brain, where normal absorption can occur. Both of these procedures will be performed by a neurosurgeon after proper diagnosis. Kuether Brain and Spine is equipped to handle the treatment of hydrocephalus to those patients in need.