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What is Hydrocephalus: Symptoms & Diagnosis

Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
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Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

It’s a condition characterized by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the cerebral organ. It leads to increased tension in tissues. This can subsequently cause complications in everyday life. That is why it is important to understand the main signs and consider fast determination of this disease.

This article will delve into: 

  • What hydrocephalus is.
  • Its signs.
  • Evaluation.
  • Healing options.
  • Frequently asked questions surrounding this condition.

Stay with us. Read the article to the end to get all the valuable information for your health.


What is Hydrocephalus?hydrocephalus

It’s often referred to as “water on the brain”. It occurs in case of an imbalance between the production and absorption of CSF. It’s a clear fluid that surrounds the cerebral organ and spinal cord. It provides cushioning and nutrients while removing waste products.

Under normal circumstances, it flows through cavities called ventricles. And it is eventually absorbed into the bloodstream. However, in this ailment, this fluid accumulates in the brain. It causes the ventricles to enlarge and exert tension on the cerebral organ. It potentially leads to damage if left uncured.

There are two types of the ailment. It can be congenital. It means it is present at birth. Or it can be acquired. It means it develops later in life due to trauma, infection, or other medical conditions. Congenital type often results from abnormalities in fetal cerebral organ development. They’re neural tube defects or genetic predispositions.


Diagnosis of Hydrocephalustreatment for hydrocephalus

It requires a comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals. It involves a combination of a medical history review, physical examination, and various tests. Prompt assessment is crucial for effective management and prevention of complications. Here’s an overview of the methods used.

Clinical Assessment

A thorough medical history and physical examination are essential. It’s for determination in adults. Headache, cognitive impairment, gait disturbances, urinary incontinence, and visual changes may raise suspicion.

Neurological Examination

It includes tests of cranial nerve function, motor strength, sensation, coordination, and reflexes. They help evaluate the extent and impact of the ailment on cerebral organ function.

Imaging Studies

For diagnosis of hydrocephalus, the next tests can help:

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is the imaging modality of choice for determination. It provides a detailed visualization of the cerebral organ structures. It includes the ventricles. It allows the identification of ventricular enlargement and associated abnormalities.
  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan. Doctors use CT scans when MRI is contraindicated or unavailable. It’s not as sensitive as MRI for subtle changes. However, CT scans can still detect ventricular enlargement and assess the degree of cerebral organ atrophy.

Intracranial Pressure Monitoring

In cases where there is uncertainty regarding the determination or to assess the severity of intracranial hypertension, direct measurement of intracranial pressure (ICP) may be warranted. The diagnosis of hydrocephalus involves placing a catheter or sensor within the cerebral organ’s ventricles. It’s to monitor tension levels over time.

CSF Analysis

Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) analyzes CSF composition and tension. Elevated CSF tension and abnormalities in protein or cell count may support the determination.

Neuropsychological Evaluation

Assessing cognitive function, memory, and other neuropsychological domains provides valuable insights into the impact of ailment on daily functioning and quality of life.

Genetic Testing

There can be suspected congenital or hereditary forms of the ailment. Genetic testing may be usually recommended. It’s to identify underlying genetic mutations or syndromes contributing to the condition.

Monitoring Response to Treatment

Serial imaging studies and clinical assessments are essential. It’s for monitoring the response to curing.


Hydrocephalus Symptoms

The signs of the ailment can vary. It depends on factors such as age, underlying cause, and the rate of fluid accumulation. Signs may include the following.

Hydrocephalus symptoms infographic



Persistent headaches are a hallmark sign of the ailment in adults. These headaches may intensify with changes in position, such as bending over or lying down. It’s due to increased intracranial tension.

Cognitive Impairment

Adults may experience cognitive changes. It includes difficulties with concentration, memory loss, slowed thinking, and impaired judgment. These cognitive impairments can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life.

Gait Disturbances

Another hydrocephalus symptom affects motor function. It leads to gait disturbances. Those are unsteady walking, imbalance, and difficulty coordinating movements. Some people may experience a shuffling gait or exhibit changes in posture.

Urinary Incontinence

Bladder dysfunction is common in adults. It may manifest as urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence. These signs can result from disruption of neural pathways controlling bladder function. It’s due to increased intracranial tension.

Visual Changes

The ailment can exert tension on the optic nerves and visual pathways. It leads to visual disturbances. They’re blurred vision, double vision (diplopia), tunnel vision, or difficulty focusing. Papilledema may also be present in some cases.

Nausea and Vomiting

Increased intracranial tension can stimulate the vomiting center in the brainstem. It results in episodes of nausea and vomiting. These hydrocephalus symptoms are particularly in the morning or after changes in position.

Sleep Disturbances

Adults may experience disrupted sleep patterns. It includes insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep disturbances may exacerbate other signs. And it contributes to overall fatigue and impaired functioning.


In some cases, the ailment can predispose adults to seizures. It may present as focal or generalized episodes of altered consciousness, involuntary movements, or sensory disturbances.

Decreased Mobility

The progressive type can cause weakness or paralysis in the extremities. It makes it difficult for adults to perform daily activities independently.


How to Treat Hydrocephalus?

Surgeons performing medical procedure

Treatment typically involves surgical intervention. It’s aimed at alleviating signs and preventing further neurological damage. The primary methods used to cure the ailment include:

  • Shunt Placement. The most common treatment involves the surgical placement of a shunt. This system consists of a flexible tube (shunt) with a one-way valve. It diverts excess CSF from the ventricles to another part of the body. They’re the abdominal cavity or heart, where it can be absorbed. Shunt placement helps maintain normal intracranial tension. And it prevents the accumulation of CSF. It relieves signs associated with the ailment.
  • Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV). In select cases, an alternative surgical procedure known as ETV may help. When treating hydrocephalus, a neuro endoscope is also used. It’s to create a new passage within the ventricular system. It allows CSF to bypass the obstruction and flow freely.

These surgical interventions aim to restore normal CSF circulation and relieve signs. It enables affected individuals to lead more functional and comfortable lives. Regular follow-up care and monitoring are essential. It’s to assess curing efficacy, manage complications, and optimize long-term outcomes.



Hydrocephalus is a complex neurological condition. It’s characterized by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain. Prompt determination and appropriate curing are essential. It’s for managing signs, preventing complications, and improving overall quality of life. Through a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and tests, healthcare providers can accurately determine the ailment and develop personalized plans tailored to each patient’s needs. With medical technology and surgical techniques, many people can lead fulfilling lives.

At Lone Star Neurology, we focus on well-being with personalized care and advanced services. Our team of doctors and specialists provides comprehensive healthcare solutions. They’re tailored to your needs. They range from routine check-ups to specialized curing. We strive to ensure your journey to wellness is seamless and effective.



Can I cure hydrocephalus? 

You can’t cure hydrocephalus in the traditional sense. However, it can be effectively managed. Treatments such as shunt placement or endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) may help. These treatments help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications associated with the condition.


Is hydrocephalus a life-threatening condition? 

Hydrocephalus can be life-threatening if left untreated or if complications arise. The excessive buildup of cerebrospinal fluid can lead to increased intracranial pressure. It potentially causes brain damage or even death. However, proper diagnosis and treatment can generally make the prognosis favorable.


Can adults develop hydrocephalus?

Yes, hydrocephalus can develop in adults. Although it is more commonly associated with infants and older adults. In adults, hydrocephalus may result from various factors. They’re head injury, brain tumor, infection, or hemorrhage. The symptoms and treatment approach may differ from those in infants or children. However, they can still be effectively managed.


Are there any long-term effects of hydrocephalus?

The long-term effects of hydrocephalus can vary. It depends on the underlying cause, age of onset, and effectiveness of treatment. In some cases, people may face cognitive or physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or behavioral challenges. Regular monitoring and ongoing management are essential. It’s to address any potential long-term effects and optimize quality of life.


How is hydrocephalus diagnosed?

It’s diagnosed through medical history evaluation, physical examination, and imaging tests. The medical team will also consider some symptoms. They’re headaches, vomiting, vision problems, and developmental delays. Early detection is crucial for timely intervention and management of the condition.

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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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