(Water on the Brain)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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. It is also in the ventricular system of the brain. With hydrocephalus the ventricles, or spaces, become enlarged.
You may be born with hydrocephalus, or it may develop after an injury or illness.
Hydrocephalus occurs when:
These problems with the CSF may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your chance of 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:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests to examine the internal structure of the brain may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
People who have increased risk for hydrocephalus should be carefully monitored. Immediate treatment might prevent long-term complications.
There are no current guidelines to prevent hydrocephalus, but you can decrease your risk of developing it. In general:
To prevent certain infections in the mother during pregnancy, take these steps:
National Hydrocephalus Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada
Hydrocephalus in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated April 28, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Hydrocephalus in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated April 28, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Hydrocephalus fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 2, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2014
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