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Hydrocephalus

(Water on the Brain)

Definition

Hydrocephalus is too much fluid in the brain. The fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It is a clear fluid that normally surrounds both the spinal cord and the brain. It is also in the ventricular system in the brain. With hydrocephalus the ventricles, or spaces, become enlarged.
You may be born with hydrocephalus, or it may develop after an injury or illness.
Hydrocephalus
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Causes

Hydrocephalus occurs when:
These problems with the CSF may be caused by:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of hydrocephalus include:

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the severity of the hydrocephalus. The extra CSF puts pressure on the brain. Symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as CSF pressure increases.
Symptoms may include:
In babies, symptoms may include:

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests to examine the internal structure of the brain may include:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
People who have increased risk for hydrocephalus should be carefully monitored. Immediate treatment might prevent long-term complications.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent hydrocephalus, but you can decrease your risk of developing it. In general:
To prevent certain infections in the mother during pregnancy, take these steps:

RESOURCES

National Hydrocephalus Foundation http://nhfonline.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada http://www.sbhac.ca

References

Hydrocephalus. EBSCO PEMSoft website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/pemsoft. Accessed September 30, 2014.

Hydrocephalus in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 25, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.

Hydrocephalus fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail%5Fhydrocephalus.htm. Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.

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