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. You may be born with hydrocephalus or it develops after an injury or illness.
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Hydrocephalus occurs when:
These problems with the CSF may be caused by:
Risk factors for hydrocephalus include:
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:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests to examine the brain may include:
Treatment may include:
People who have risk factors for hydrocephalus should be carefully monitored. Immediate treatment might prevent long-term complications.
If you are diagnosed with hydrocephalus, follow your doctor's instructions.
There are no known ways to prevent all cases of hydrocephalus. In general:
Certain infections in the mother during pregnancy can cause hydrocephalus in the baby. Examples of infections known to cause problems during pregnancy include:
American Neurological Association
Hydrocephalus Foundation, Inc.
National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada
Goetz CG. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2007.
Hydrocephalus in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated May 25, 2012. Accessed September 20, 2012.
Hydrocephalus in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated May 21, 2012. Accessed September 20, 2012.
Hydrocephalus fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail_hydrocephalus.htm . Updated December 16, 2011. Accessed September 20, 2012.
Kliegman R, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2007.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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