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What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is a lack of absorption, blockage of flow, or overproduction of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that is found inside the ventricles (fluid-filled areas) of the brain. This may result in a build up of fluid that can cause the pressure inside of the head to increase and the skull bones to expand to a larger-than-normal appearance.

Hydrocephalus comes from the Greek: "hydro" means water, "cephalus" means head. Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within cavities called ventricles inside the brain. CSF is produced in the ventricles, circulates through the ventricular system and is absorbed into the bloodstream. CSF is in constant circulation and has many important functions. It surrounds the brain and spinal cord and acts as a protective cushion against injury. CSF contains nutrients and proteins necessary for the nourishment and normal function of the brain. It also carries waste products away from surrounding tissues. Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an imbalance between the amount of CSF that is produced and the rate at which it is absorbed. As the CSF builds up, it causes the ventricles to enlarge and the pressure inside the head to increase.

Hydrocephalus that is congenital (present at birth) is thought to be caused by a complex interaction of environmental and perhaps genetic factors. Aqueductal stenosis and spina bifida are two examples. Acquired hydrocephalus may result from intraventricular hemorrhage, meningitis, head trauma, tumors and cysts. Hydrocephalus is believed to occur in about 2 out of 1,000 births. The incidences of adult-onset hydrocephalus and acquired hydrocephalus are not known.

Hydrocephalus is described either as obstructive or noncommunicating and non-obstructive or communicating. This relates to the level of obstruction and whether CSF exits from the foramina in the roof of the 4th ventricle or is fully trapped within the ventricular system. Hydrocephalus is also classified as acquired when it is caused by acquired causes or congenital. In congenital hydrocephalus it is caused by either excessive production of CSF, blockage to the CSF drainage or reduced excretion into the venous channels.

More information on hydrocephalus

What is hydrocephalus? - Hydrocephalus is the lack of absorption, blockage of flow, or overproduction of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that is found inside of the ventricles inside of the brain.
What causes hydrocephalus? - Hydrocephalus can be broadly classified as being caused by disturbance to normal production, flow or absorption of cerebrospinal fluid.
What're the symptoms of hydrocephalus? - The symptoms of hydrocephalus include irritability, fatigue, seizures, and personality changes, drowsiness, and double vision.
How is hydrocephalus diagnosed? - Hydrocephalus may be diagnosed before birth by prenatal ultrasound, a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves.
What's the treatment for hydrocephalus? - Treatment of hydrocephalus depends on its cause. Medications are used to slow the rate of cerebrospinal fluid production temporarily.
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