May 27, 2024
A Comprehensive Guide To Hydrocephalus: What You Need To Know.

Hydrocephalus, also known as “water on the brain”, is a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates within the skull. Hydrocephalus can result in increased pressure within the skull, causing headaches and nausea, impairing vision and hearing, and possibly leading to dementia. The most common cause of hydrocephalus is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain: this connection allows excess amounts of CSF to leak into spaces containing blood vessels and its drainage through the normal pathways. Hydrocephalus usually results from blockages in these pathways that slow down, block, or reverse the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from inside to outside of the skull.



Acquired Hydrocephalus

Acquired hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the cranium. CSF is a clear, watery fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. This condition occurs when there is a blockage in one of the structures that allows fluid to drain from or flow into one of these cavities. The most common causes are head injury, infection, tumor, or post-surgery complications. This generally occurs as a result of cranial or intracranial injury, but may also develop as a result of infection, inflammation, or blood vessel malformation. In addition to being caused by injuries and infections, it can be caused by tumors in the surrounding tissues as well as increased pressure from within the skull.


Causes of hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus can be either open or closed, which refers to whether the ventricles are communicating with each other and/or the subarachnoid space. The cause of hydrocephalus may be related to genetic defects,  It may be caused by birth defects, but most commonly it occurs as the result of head injuries or infections that damage the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the brain and spinal cord. The excess fluid puts pressure on the brain and causes it to swell, which can lead to serious problems with health and development. Hydrocephalus can be present at birth or develop later in life.

Symptoms of hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is an abnormally high level of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Excess CSF puts pressure on the brain, causing expansion of the head and, in some cases, compression of brain tissue. This may lead to symptoms that include headache, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, seizures, blurred vision, or even coma..where it may cause symptoms such as headaches and nausea, or simply because there is too much fluid overall. Hydrocephalus usually occurs in infants under one year old due to blocked channels draining cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The most common form of hydrocephalus happens when CSF flows through the ventricles at an abnormally high rate. 

Treatment of hydrocephalus

Treatment of hydrocephalus depends on the cause, severity of symptoms, age of the person, and other medical conditions that may be present. Treatment options include medication to reduce pressure within the brain (cerebral perfusion), surgery to remove fluid or correct the problem causing it (e.g., shunting procedures), draining excess fluid by inserting a needle into the ventricles and treating related complications.  Some patients are not good candidates for surgery and require an alternative method to relieve pressure in their skulls. These people are commonly treated with medications or other surgeries.

Congenital hydrocephalus

Congenital hydrocephalus is the build-up of CSF in the skull. This can be caused by several factors, including brain injury or infection. Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an obstruction in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the ventricles and/or subarachnoid space due to a blockage from CSF. The most common cause of congenital hydrocephalus is a malformation called aqueductal stenosis. 

Types of hydrocephalus

The two most common types are open-angle and closed-angle, depending on the type of blockage in the affected ventricles. 

1. Open-angle hydrocephalus

Open-angle hydrocephalus (also called communicating hydrocephalus) means the fluid is not able to freely flow from the lateral ventricles into the spinal canal. Instead, it accumulates in the cerebral aqueduct and then slowly leaks into the subarachnoid space. The primary treatment for open-angle hydrocephalus is a surgical procedure done by neurosurgeons that involve creating a shunt to redirect excess CSF from inside your child’s brain to an external collection.

2. Closed-angle hydrocephalus

Closed-angle hydrocephalus (or “hydrocephalus ex-spine”) is a treatable form of intracranial hypertension where the cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricles has a low pH. In this condition, cerebrospinal fluid flows slowly from the brain where it pools in the subarachnoid space. As a result, cerebrospinal fluid can flow into one or both lateral ventricles and cause increased pressure within those structures.

Functions of Hydrocephalus

Cerebrospinal fluid has three functions:
1. It acts as a cushion, protecting the brain and spinal cord from injury.
2. It circulates nutrients throughout the brain and spinal cord, providing nourishment for their development.
3. It removes waste products of metabolism, helping to maintain healthy cells in the central nervous system.

Conclusion

Hydrocephalus is a condition that can be treated and managed with surgical procedures and medication. If you or your child is suffering from hydrocephalus, we urge you to seek treatment as soon as possible. To protect your child from hydrocephalus, it’s important, especially during the first year of life, that you are aware of the symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, take them to a doctor immediately. It is also important to visit your doctor every four months for a checkup so they can identify if there are any abnormalities in your child’s health.  We hope this guide has been useful. 

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