Hydrocephalus can happen to anyone, but occurs frequently among infants and adults, 60 and over. It is the buildup of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain. This excess fluid expands the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain.The Cerebrospinal fluid flows through the ventricles and bathes the brain and spinal column. But too much cerebrospinal fluid causing pressure can damage brain tissues and cause a range of impairments in brain function.
Common signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus
An unusually large head, rapid increase in the size of the head, a bulging or tense soft spot (fontanel) on the top of the head may be signs of Hydrocephalus among them. Other symptoms may be: vomiting, irritability, poor feeding, seizures, poor growth and poor responsiveness.
Common symptoms in toddlers may be Headache, Blurred or double vision, Eyes fixed downward, abnormal enlargement of a toddler’s head, Sleepiness or lethargy, Nausea, loss of balance, Poor coordination, Poor appetite, Seizures, Urinary incontinence. They may also become irritable, have a change in personality, school performance may decline, Delays in walking or talking.
Young and middle-aged adults
Symptoms faced by young or middle aged adults may like Headache, Lethargy, Loss of coordination or balance, Loss of bladder control or a frequent urge to urinate, Impaired vision, Decline in memory, concentration and other skills that may affect job performance
Adults of age 60 years and above face symptoms of hydrocephalus like:incontinence or a frequent urge to urinate, Memory loss, Progressive loss of thinking or reasoning skills, Difficulty in walking, Poor coordination or balance etc.
Causes of Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus is caused when there is excess of cerebrospinal fluid produced but not much is absorbed into the bloodstream.
This fluid is produced by tissues lining the ventricles of the brain. It flows through the ventricles into spaces around the brain and spinal column. It is generally absorbed by blood vessels in tissues near the base of the brain.
Role of Cerebrospinal fluid:
- Helps the heavy brain to float within the skull
- Cushions the brain and prevents injury
- Removes waste products of the brain’s metabolism
- Maintains constant pressure within the brain cavity and spinal column compensating for changes in blood pressure in the brain
Excess cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles may occur due to:
- Obstruction in thenormal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, either from one ventricle to another or from the ventricles to other spaces around the brain.
- Poor absorptionwhenblood vessels are unable to absorb the excess cerebrospinal fluidproduced due to disease or injury.
- Overproductionsometimes cerebrospinal fluid is created more quickly than it can be absorbed.
Factor that lead to Hydrocephalus
Newborn-Hydrocephalus present at birth may occur because ofabnormal development of the central nervous system, bleeding within the ventricles, infectionssuch as rubella or syphilis in the uterus during a pregnancy
Among other age groups–Among others the causes for Hydrocephalus may be due toLesions or tumors of the brain or spinal cord, infections of central nervous system such as bacterial meningitis or mumps, bleeding in the brain from a stroke or head injury, other traumatic injury to the brain
Prevention of Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus cannot be prevented but there are ways to reduce the risk of hydrocephalus:
- Pregnant women should get regular prenatal care to reduce the risk of premature labor, which may put the baby at risk of hydrocephalus and other complications
- Protect against infectious illness andget vaccinated and screenedto reduce the risk hydrocephalus.
- Use appropriate safety equipment to prevent head injuryuse helmets andseatbelts to prevent any head injury and reduce the risk
Get vaccinated against meningitis
Meningitis is one of the common causes of hydrocephalus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinations for preteen children and boosters for teenagers to prevent the risk of Meningitis. Younger children and adults may be at increased risk of meningitis if:
- Traveling to countries where meningitis is common
- Having an immune system disorder
- Having a damaged spleen or having had the spleen removed
- Living in a college dormitory
- Joining the military