Home > Conditions > Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus results from the presence of too much fluid in the brain cavity, specifically in the ventricles. This condition is commonly known as “water on the brain”; however, the fluid is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF provides the brain nutrients and creates a barrier in the head, allowing the brain to “float.”
When an injury or illness alters the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid, the ventricles can become enlarged. Since the skull is hard, it cannot release the excess fluid. This can increase the pressure on the brain. Though a cause is not always known, it is most commonly a result of hemorrhage, infections, brain damage, stroke or tumors.
The two most common forms of adult hydrocephalus are hydrocephalus ex-vacuo and normal pressure hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus ex-vacuo occurs when a stroke or injury damages the brain, causing it to shrink. Normal pressure hydrocephalus happens when fluid pathways in the brain become gradually blocked.
Hydrocephalus is a progressive condition. Many of the symptoms mirror normal symptoms of aging, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Because of the progressive nature of hydrocephalus, symptoms tend to worsen over time and progress from symptoms like headaches to decreased cognitive and bodily functions. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Difficulty focusing the eyes
- Unsteady walking
- Weakness in legs
- Sudden falls
- Inability to walk forward
- Decreased mental activity and memory problems
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
Unfortunately, most cases of hydrocephalus have no known cause, making it difficult to diagnose and understand. Hydrocephalus typically affects adults over 60. The most common ways to diagnose hydeocephalus are CT or MRI scans, as well as lumbar punctures.