Hydrocephalus is a condition you may experience due to the building of fluids in your skull. It can lead to inflammation of your brain. Therefore, it is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. Brain inflammation can trigger several physical and intellectual problems in the affected person. Impairments can affect your overall personality and growth. So, you need to seek treatments for it immediately. With proper medical care and attention, you can avoid the severe complications associated with the issue. Did the condition invoke curiosity in you? Know more by reading the article to gain valuable insight about hydrocephalus.
What Is Hydrocephalus?
The term Hydrocephalus means water in your brain. It is the condition that can lead to serious brain damage due to fluid accumulation. Due to various reasons, fluid accumulates in your skull. The buildup mostly occurs in the cavities known as ventricles. It can result in an increase in the size of the ventricles. It puts pressure on your brain. So, it results in brain swelling. Cerebrospinal fluid can flow through the cavities for normal functioning. But, too much of CSF can result in tissue damage in the brain. Therefore, the subsequent brain damage can affect a person’s development. It also causes intellectual and physical issues.
So, it is a condition that you must never ignore. The problem mainly affects young children and old people (over sixty years of age). How common is the problem? A study conducted by NINDS (Neurological Disorders and Stroke) estimates that you cannot eliminate the issue as rare. It can occur in one or two babies of every thousand births (in the USA alone). Therefore, hydrocephalus can cause havoc in anyone’s life. It requires proper treatment to avoid serious complications. It will help a child grow without any physical or intellectual disability.
Causes Of Hydrocephalus
What causes the problem? In normal cases, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows through the brain. It also flows to the spinal cord. But, some issues can increase the amount of CSF fluid in the brain. So, the events that increase the CSF levels in your skull are:
- A block that prevents the CSF in your brain flow normally
- The decreased ability of your blood vessels to absorb the excess fluid
- Your brain produces an excess amount of the fluid
When the brain is filled with excess fluid, it can put pressure on the organ. It results in the swelling of the brain. Therefore, it leads to tissue damage in the brain and subsequent problems. So, the underlying issues that cause the accumulation of fluid in the brain are:
Causes Affecting Children
Infants can suffer from hydrocephalus even before their birth. The root causes that cause the problem are:
- The birth defect in the babies leading to the open spinal column that does not close
- The genetic problem causing physical abnormality
- Infection during the pregnancy affecting the child like rubella
Some of the other problems causing the accumulation of brain fluid in children are:
Certain infection affecting the child can result in hydrocephalus. Infections like meningitis can affect a child’s central nervous system. It can damage the brain cells of children, especially babies.
Premature babies have a high risk of bleeding in the brain. It can lead to fluid accumulation during or after the delivery.
Injuries sustained by the infant during or after the delivery can result in the problem.
- Head Trauma
The head trauma suffered during an accident can result in excess fluid accumulation.
- Central Nervous System Tumors
The tumors in the central nervous system can block the free flow of the CSF. So, it can result in hydrocephalus.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
It is a problem affecting older adults. It leads to the excess accumulation of CSF even when the pressure is normal. So, it can trigger brain swelling and ultimately impaired functioning. In adults, the problem occurs when certain issues prevent the free flow of the CSF. But, some cases have no underlying cause. Several factors can increase your risk of fluid accumulation like:
- Infections like meningitis damaging the brain tissue
- Head injuries
- Side-effects due to brain surgery
- Bleeding from the blood vessels in the brain
Symptoms Of Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus is a condition that needs immediate medical attention. The problem can get worse when you ignore the problem. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of the issue as soon as possible. Ignoring it can result in irreversible brain damage. People of any age can suffer from the issue. Therefore, signs for different people affected by the problem are:
Signs Of Hydrocephalus In Infants
You need to monitor your infant for the early signs. The glaring symptoms that indicate the presence of an accumulation of excess fluid is:
- Bulging of the soft spot on the surface of the skull known as a fontanel
- Increase in the circumference of the head rapidly
- Sunken eyes that you can see fixed downward
- Excessive sleeping tendency
- Extreme fussiness
- Low muscle tone and strength
- Poor feeding
Signs Observed In Toddlers And Older children
Toddlers and older children can exhibit different signs. Therefore, you need to look for the following symptoms:
- Personality changes
- Crossed eyes
- Change in the child’s facial structure
- Complaining of headaches
- Short yet high-pitched cries
- Muscle spasms
- Trouble consuming food
- Delayed growth
- Extreme sleepiness
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Trouble waking up or staying awake
- Large head circumference
- Problem with focusing or concentration
- Nausea or Vomiting
Young And Middle Age Adults Signs
Hydrocephalus can trigger the following signs in people in their youth or middle age:
- Poor memory
- Bladder problems
- Chronic headaches
- Loss of coordination
- The difficulty with movement (walking)
- Vision problems
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) Signs
The condition mostly affects people over the age of sixty. It begins slowly and progresses with time. Fainting or losing consciousness is one of the main signs that indicate some problem. You may also experience other problems. So, the signs include:
- Changes in the walking pattern
- Impaired mental functions including memory problems
- Urinary Incontinence (trouble controlling urine flow)
- Bowel Incontinence (trouble controlling stools)
- Frequent headaches
When you see or experience the symptoms mentioned above, you need to seek an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can perform several tests to come to a precise conclusion. It will help develop a treatment plan to opt for your condition. So, your doctor can adopt the following techniques to make a precise diagnosis.
The first step to detect the issue is by performing a thorough physical examination. If you or your child has hydrocephalus, then certain physical signs may appear. The following physical attributes may lead your doctor to suspect the accumulation of fluid in the brain:
- Sunken eyes
- Bulging fontanel
- Slow reflexes
- Larger head circumference (mostly in infants compared to the normal ranges)
If your doctor suspects the issue, then you need to undergo further tests to come to an accurate conclusion.
It is the test used for detecting the problem in babies only. It is due to the fact that the babies have their soft spot (fontanel) open. So, the doctor can get a comprehensive look of the brain using the test. It uses the high-frequency waves to give a precise image of the brain. Therefore, it can provide a picture of fluid accumulation if present.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
The problem can result in an accumulation of CSF in the brain. So, the sophisticated imaging technique can provide your doctor details about the excess fluid. MRI is the technique that provides your doctor with cross-sectional images of the brain using the radio waves along with the magnetic field.
CT (Computerized Tomography) Scans
It is the technique used to detect or diagnose hydrocephalus in adults as well as children. It helps to get different x-ray images of the brain. The cross-sectional image of your brain can help your doctor see the brain ventricles. Enlarged brain ventricles suggest the presence of too much CSF. So, your doctor can make a proper diagnosis with the technique.
Hydrocephalus Treatment Options
You need to understand the severity of the problem. If you leave it untreated, then it can result in fatal complications. Therefore, you need to seek your doctor’s assistance as soon as you suspect a problem. But, the treatment option does not reverse the brain damage you have suffered due to the accumulation of fluid in the brain. So, the goal of treatment focusses on preventing further damage to your brain tissues. Your doctor concentrates of restoring the CSF flow to the normal levels. Therefore, your doctor can adopt the following options.
It involves using invasive methods to drain the excess fluid from the skull. So, it can make the CSF flow in your brain normal and prevent further complications. Two major surgical options are available for you.
Your doctor can insert the shunt using surgery to drain the excess fluid accumulated in the skull. The shunt is an effective drainage system that comes with a long tube as well as a valve. The valve is responsible for normalizing the CSF flow in the brain. It also helps it flow in the right direction. During the surgery, your doctor inserts one end of the tube in your brain. While the other end is placed on your abdominal cavity or chest. Therefore, the excess CSF fluid in your brain drains to the other end. It gets absorbed easily in the abdominal or chest cavity. The shunt implant is placed permanently. So, you need to consult your doctor regularly for monitoring.
Another surgical procedure involved in draining the excess fluid is the ventriculostomy. Your doctor mostly opts it as an alternative option instead of the shunt insertion. During the procedures, your doctor makes a hole in between the ventricles or at its bottom. It can release the pressure due to excess fluid. So, the excess CSF leaves the brain and ensures normal flow.
The surgical treatment options for the hydrocephalus has several side effects. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor about the complications associated with it.
Other Treatment Options
Children need further treatment after draining the excess fluid in the skull. It will help them combat the damage caused due to hydrocephalus. Depending on the severity of the brain damage, the child needs treatment for some time. So, the treatment option includes a team of specialists like:
The specialist doctor for children is responsible for overseeing the treatment. So, the doctor can assess the treatment plan as well as medical care to overcome the complications.
The brain damage can trigger some neurological complication in children. So, a specialist like pediatric neurologist can diagnose the condition. It will also develop the right treatment to combat the issues.
The specialist can provide a specific therapy for the children to develop everyday skills. It is suggested for children who have lost their skills due to brain damage.
Some children lose their ability to interact socially. So, the therapy from the professionals can help the child develop the behavior appropriate for their age. It also helps them develop interpersonal skills as well as social skills.
Mental Health Provider
The child suffering the brain damage can endure mental issues. They can struggle to become a part of the regular society. So, they need the assistance of the psychiatrist or psychologist to overcome the complications in their life. The specialists can aid in enhancing mental health.
The social workers provide assistance to your family to find the services and plan it for caring for your child better.
Special Education Teacher
The teacher can address the learning disabilities of your child precisely. Based on the assessment, the teacher can determine educational needs. The specialist can also identify the appropriate educational resources needed for your child to flourish.
Outlook Of People Affected By Hydrocephalus
The outlook of a person affected by hydrocephalus depends on the severity of the symptoms. The long-term side-effects of the condition can vary depending on the person affected by it. So, you need to speak to your doctor. The expert opinion will give you a proper insight on what to expect in the future. Your doctor can look closely into the symptoms to provide an accurate analysis of the outlook of the patients. Let’s see the outlook of the different categories of people affected by the issue.
Children are mostly affected by the issue compared to adults. Unfortunately, a child affected by the fluid accumulation in the brain can experience lifelong brain damage. By working with professionals including pediatricians, special education teachers, mental health providers, occupational therapists, developmental therapists, and pediatric neurologists, children can learn to manage their disability and lessen the lifelong effects.
Adults with severe symptoms of hydrocephalus might need to work with occupational therapists. Others may require long-term care. Some might need the care of medical specialists who focus on dementia.
Reducing The Risk Of Hydrocephalus
Unfortunately, you have no means to completely prevent the issue from affecting your child. But, you can take steps to lower the risk of hydrocephalus in young and old people. So, you need to follow the pointers suggested below to ensure the issue does not crop up in your loved one’s life.
To avoid the issue in infants, you need to get good prenatal care. Good prenatal care under the observation of a gynecologist can reduce the chances of premature labor. Premature labor is one of the significant factors resulting in brain swelling in infants. So, ensure you take your folic acid, vitamins, and iron tablets suggested by the doctor. Get regular checkups to make sure the baby is developing at the right pace. Following the doctor’s orders precisely can minimize the risk.
Young children need to get the vaccination at the proper time. It prevents the infections as well as illness associated with hydrocephalus. So, you need to make sure your child gets vaccinated. Regular screening of your child can detect the presence of any illness or infection. Therefore, it helps to eliminate the risk of fluid accumulation in the brain.
Prevent Head Trauma
In older people, head trauma can lead to fluid accumulation in the brain. Therefore, you need to prevent it by using safety equipment. If you work in a risky environment, then follow the safety guidelines. Use helmet to prevent the head injuries and the risk associated with it. Head injuries can occur when you indulge in activities like bike riding. So, wear a good helmet. Wear seatbelt while driving a car. It will lower your risk of head injuries.
When you take your child for a drive, ensure you have a car seat. It can eliminate the risk of head injury. You also need to take special care while choosing baby equipment like strollers. Ensure it meets all the safety standards to avoid any accident risks.
Your diet can play a major role in preventing the condition. It is helpful for older people who face a higher risk of getting affected by it. Therefore, try to include more potassium in your diet. Including more fruits and vegetables can also reduce your risk of fluid accumulation in the brain. Wheatgrass can prevent the problem to an extent. So, try to consume it more.
Hydrocephalus is a condition that can result in irreversible brain damage. Therefore, you need to spot the problem immediately to avoid severe risks. But, understand that the treatment may not reverse the brain damage endured due to the problem. It can only prevent further complication. So, seek your doctor’s help immediately. It can minimize brain damage and help you lead a productive life.
[expand title=”View Article Sources“]