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What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a very serious condition in which excess cerebral fluid accumulates in the brain. It may be present at birth (congenital hydrocephalus) or develop later in life.

In most instances, hydrocephalus is a lifelong condition where that the patient is treated rather than "cured."

Hydrocephalus occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 children. When it occurs in adults, it is often in older adults.

Hydrocephalus is also called 'water on the brain'.

Types of Hydrocephalus

There are two main forms of hydrocephalus: communicating and non communicating.

Communicating hydrocephalus, also called non-obstructive hydrocephalus is caused by inadequate absorption of cerebrospinal fluid when the ventricular pathways in the brain are not obstructed.

Noncommunicating hydrocephalus, also called obstructive hydrocephalus is caused by blockage in the ventricular pathways in the brain through which cerebrospinal fluid flows.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

The most common symptoms of hydrocephalus are:

  • urinary incontinence
  • mental decline
  • slow and restricted eye and body movements
  • abnormal enlargement of the head (in newborns)

What causes Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is caused by many different things. Some of the common causes are: malfunction of the brain, brain tumors, brain cysts, bacterial meningitis, or spinal chord defects.

In Congenital hydrocephalus, there is either a blockage in the brain's cerebrospinal fluid circulation system or an inability to reabsorb the fluid.

How serious is Hydrocephalus?

For children, the severity depends on the age of onset. If it is well advanced at birth, it can lead to major brain damage and physical handicaps. If it is not well advanced at birth and with proper treatment, individuals will live a life that is close to normal.


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