The medical condition known as hydrocephalus occurs when cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pools within the brain, causing brain damage due to increase in intracranial pressure. Elderly people and infants are commonly affected by this condition.Insufficient absorption of CSF or excessive secretion of CSF or obstruction to CSF flow causes the CSF stream to become blocked, causing an accumulation of fluid that strains the skull.
There are two major types of hydrocephalus: communicable and non-communicable. Hydrocephalus may develop before birth or develop after birth.When the CSF is blocked after leaving the ventricles of the brain in subarachnoid spaces we have communicable hydrocephalus. If the CSF is blocked between the ventricles, we have non-communicable hydrocephalus.
What is the leading cause of hydrocephalus?
Approximately one in 1000 infants suffer from hydrocephalus. Researchers do not yet know the exact reason for such abnormal births, but they believe they may be caused by genetic disorders or fetal development disorders, such as spina bifida.Hydrocephalus is a birth defect with complications that can develop in adulthood. Infection, head injuries, bleeding in the brain, or brain tumours are the main causes of acquired hydrocephalus.
There is even a condition that causes hydrocephalus in older people called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). This condition results in dementia, which is why it is often confused with Alzheimer’s.
Hydrocephalus has significant symptoms, what are they?
The symptoms of hydrocephalus vary with each type and cause of occurrence. However, commonly seen symptoms in adults are:
- Difficulties in walking
- Loss of memory
- Blurred eyesight
- Chronic headache
- Nausea, vomiting, and dizziness
- Defective bladder
- During old age, NPH may impair the functioning of the nervous system that controls limbs and bladder. It even affects the cognitive processes, leading to dementia, urinary incontinence, and difficulty walking.
What are the treatment options for hydrocephalus?
A doctor will prescribe a treatment method based on the results of a thorough clinical examination. An early diagnosis can aid in effective treatment, and a full recovery can be obtained without any further complications in the future. The treatment methods include:
- Medical management with drugs to decrease production of CSF.
- Medical management with medications which decrease intra cranial pressure.
- If the cause of obstruction can be removed with various medical means or radiotherapy, they are also tried.
- In all the other cases or if the hydrocephalus and resultant intra cranial pressure is very high we need surgery. There are two main forms of surgery: VP shunt (Ventriculo-peritoneal shunt) and Endoscopic third ventriculostomy.
- Ventriculo-Peritoneal shunt includes placement of a tube connecting the brain and abdominal cavity to bypass the obstruction and drain excessive fluid.
- Endoscopic third ventriculostomy includes creation of an artificial passage called ” ventriculostomy ” to bypass the obstruction and drain excessive fluid.
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