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 in 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 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 for Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada
Hydrocephalus in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 25, 2012. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Hydrocephalus. PEMSoft at EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Hydrocephalus fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail_hydrocephalus.htm. Updated June 13, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2014 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.