The brain is arguably the most complex and important organ in the human body, and it’s also among the most sensitive and fragile. Any condition that affects your brain has the potential to lead to serious consequences, which is certainly true of hydrocephalus. In Greek, “hydro” means water and “cephalus” alludes to the head, and it’s an apt description for hydrocephalus, which is pressure on your brain due to a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid.
At Capital Brain and Spine Surgery, Dr. Desh Sahni leads our team of neurological experts in helping patients in Austin, Texas, overcome the myriad serious issues that affect the brain and the spine. Although we believe that expert treatment is key, we also understand the importance of education and awareness.
To that end, we’ve pulled together five things you should know about hydrocephalus.
Your brain relies on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for three important tasks:
To perform its duties, your CSF needs to flow freely in your skull, which it does through your ventricular system, a network of four ventricles and narrow passageways.
With hydrocephalus, your CSF builds up in your ventricular system, enlarging your ventricles, which puts pressure on your brain. This flow may be blocked after your fluid exits your ventricular system, or it may occur within the system itself.
Hydrocephalus is either congenital or acquired and largely affects infants or adults over the age of 60. According to the Hydrocephalus Association, one to two out of every 1,000 children born in the United States have the condition, and it’s the most common driver of brain surgery in children. The reason for the higher prevalence in infants and toddlers is complicated and can stem from anything from spina bifida or an infection during pregnancy.
The increased risk for adults over the age of 60 is largely due to stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, injury, or any condition that causes the brain to shrink.
To allow for the natural growth of their brain, a baby’s skull isn’t fully closed for the first two years of their life. With hydrocephalus, the baby’s skull may expand rapidly to accommodate the extra pressure, which is the most obvious sign that something’s amiss.
Outside of an expanding skull, an infant may also experience:
Hydrocephalus is hardly subtle in infants, but the same can’t be said of adults.
After your skull knits together in infancy, the symptoms of hydrocephalus are a bit different since your skull can’t expand to accommodate the fluid buildup. As well, these signs may be subtle at first, and worsen with age, which accounts for many of the diagnoses over the age of 60.
The primary signs of acquired hydrocephalus include:
Unfortunately, these symptoms mimic other conditions that strike older adults, which is why it’s important that you seek the help of a neurologist.
Hydrocephalus can come on quickly or develop over time, but in either case, the condition doesn’t clear up on its own. If you suspect you or a loved one may be exhibiting signs of hydrocephalus, it’s imperative that you come see us as soon as possible.
To set up an appointment, call (512) 361-1165, or use our online scheduling tool.