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What is Hydrocephalus?

Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Hydrocephalus is a disease resulting from increased spinal fluid in the brain. It can lead to abnormal enlargement of spaces in the brain (ventricles) and other serious complications. 

Though it can happen to anyone at any age, newborns and small children are the most frequently affected. If you’re wondering what causes hydrocephalus, there are many potential causes, such as hereditary conditions, head trauma, infections, and tumours.

Seizures, eye issues, and cognitive impairment are just a few of the severe complications resulting from hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus may, in rare circumstances, prove lethal.

Although hydrocephalus is treatable, it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms so you can get assistance if necessary. A shunt or drain is frequently inserted into the brain as hydrocephalus treatment to release pressure. To restore the harm caused by hydrocephalus, individuals with fluid in the brain may also require surgery. Many persons with hydrocephalus symptoms can live everyday, healthy lives if they receive the proper care.

hydrocephalus

Types of Hydrocephalus

There are three primary forms of the pathology:

  • Open when all the ventricles are dilated, but there are no obstacles to the flow of the fluid;
  • Occlusive when there is an obstacle in the course of the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, and the paths are blocked;
  • Resorptive when there is insufficient suction in the subarachnoid space.

 

Depending on where the fluid is localized in the brain, there are:

  • Internal hydrocephalus, i.e., excess fluid in the ventricles
  • External, when the fluid accumulates in the subarachnoid space.

 

In open-type hydrocephalus in adults and children, the ventricles stretch and put pressure on the brain’s substance, which causes thinning and degeneration of nerve tissue. When there are obstructions in the way of the cerebrospinal fluid, pressure is exerted on different parts of the brain. Tumors, trauma, and inflammation cause obstructions. With some forms of stroke, the brain’s substance is dissolved, and its place is taken by fluid. Approximately the same processes occur in old age.

The causes of the disease are congenital abnormalities in the brain due to features of fetal development and acquired resulting from trauma and disorders.

 

Depending on the nature of the course, hydrocephalus is of two types:

  • Stable: the pressure of the spinal fluid is slightly elevated, but it is not increasing;
  • Progressive: treatment measures do not lead to stabilization of the volume of the spinal fluid, and atrophy of the cerebral substance is possible.

The risk of cerebral hydrocephalus persists at any age, both in adult patients and children. 

 

What are the Main Hydrocephalus Symptoms?

hydrocephalus symptoms

The manifestations of the disease differ in children and adults. Symptoms of hydrocephalus depend on the degree of pathology, the patient’s age, and the disease’s form and extent.

In young patients, the disease is severe, almost always leading to developmental delays. Since the skull bones are not fused, a child with hydrocephalus has a huge head, and swollen veins can be seen on it. The great fontanelle is tense but does not pulsate. In severe forms, the sutures of the skull separate. Appearance is characterized by thin skin on the head, protruding ears, difficulty looking upwards (the “setting sun” symptom), and deep-set eyes. Children are developmentally delayed, turn and sit up later than their peers, and have little interest in their surroundings.

If the pathology is eliminated in the first year of life, the child’s normal mental and physical development is possible.

In adolescents, hydrocephalus may be complicated by infectious diseases, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and bradycardia.

The primary manifestation of hydrocephalus in adults is a persistent and excruciating headache and a lack of response to pain medications. A feeling of pressure on the eyes, pain when moving the eyes, nausea, and vomiting are characteristic.

 

Additional neurological symptoms of cerebral hydrocephalus in older children and adults may include:

  • decreased visual acuity;
  • loss of visual fields;
  • dizziness and wobbly walking;
  • increased muscle tone;
  • paresis and paralysis;
  • sprawling disproportionate movements;
  • changes in handwriting;
  • emotional and mental disturbances.

 

In some patients, there is an abrupt transition from indifference to euphoria, elation to apathy, etc. Sometimes, a person who has not previously exhibited anger begins to behave aggressively.

 

What Causes Hydrocephalus?

You already know what hydrocephalus is, but now let’s find out what the causes of this disease are. There are three leading causes of the pathology:

  • excessive production of spinal fluid;
  • disorder of circulation;
  • impaired absorption.

 

All these disorders arise from a variety of causes, among them:

  • tumors;
  • infections;
  • head injuries;
  • bleeding in the brain;
  • chronic subarachnoid hemorrhage;
  • meningitis.

 

In babies, congenital hydrocephalus can also be caused by infections the mother has had during fetal development. Examples are HIV, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, and rubella.

 

How is the Treatment for Hydrocephalus?

The therapy’s primary goal is to reduce brain pressure and normalize cerebrospinal fluid circulation. The treatment method depends on the patient’s age, the type of hydrocephalus, and its severity.

In young patients with congenital hydrocephalus, neurosurgeons usually place a shunt. This medical device helps drain the cerebrospinal fluid from the brain and redirect it to another area of the body where it can be absorbed.

If hydrocephalus develops in adults, an endoscopic ventriculostomy is most commonly performed. During this procedure, a small hole is made in the bottom of the third ventricle. A tube is inserted into this hole, which allows cerebrospinal fluid to flow out of the ventricle.

In some cases, doctors resort to stereotactic surgery when the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid cannot be normalized by shunt or endoscopic ventriculostomy. It is a high-precision type of neurosurgery that uses computer mapping to guide the surgeon’s instruments to specific areas deep inside the brain.

After these procedures, you will need lifelong follow-up by a team of specialists. They will monitor your health and cerebrospinal fluid circulation and adjust treatment as needed.

treatment for hydrocephalus

Lone Star Neurology Can Help You

At LoneStarNeurology, hydrocephalus is treated by board-certified neurologists who specialize in cerebrovascular disease and endovascular neurosurgery. We will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to meet your specific needs.

If you or a loved one suffers from hydrocephalus, don’t wait any longer to seek help. Find the clinic closest to you and hurry to make an appointment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

 

FAQ

  • What is the leading cause of hydrocephalus?

The three leading causes of hydrocephalus are excessive spinal fluid production, a circulation disorder, and impaired absorption. All these disorders arise from various causes: malformations of the nervous system; intrauterine infections; inflammations of the brain matter and membranes; craniocerebral traumas; brain hemorrhages; cysts; tumors. In babies, congenital hydrocephalus can also be caused by infections the mother has had during fetal development. Examples are HIV, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, and rubella.

  • How long can you live with hydrocephalus?

The length and quality of life for people with hydrocephalus vary greatly. Most children born with hydrocephalus who receive treatment will have an average lifespan. However, if left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal.

  • How severe is hydrocephalus in adults?

Hydrocephalus is a severe condition that can cause death if left untreated. In adults, hydrocephalus is most often caused by head injuries, stroke, or meningitis. Treatment for hydrocephalus typically involves placing a shunt in the brain to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid.

  • How is hydrocephalus detected?

Hydrocephalus is typically detected through medical history, physical examination, and neuroimaging studies. The most common neuroimaging study used to diagnose hydrocephalus is an MRI.

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Lone Star Neurology
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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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