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:
The doctor will ask 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.com/topics/dmp~AN~T506596/Hydrocephalus-in-adults. Updated May 25, 2012. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Hydrocephalus in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T474411/Hydrocephalus-in-children. Updated December 21, 2015. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Hydrocephalus fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail_hydrocephalus.htm. Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2015 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.