Hydrocephalus is a rare brain condition where there is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain due to abnormal enlargement of spaces inside the brain. This can be caused by head trauma, brain tumors, hemorrhages, and other brain diseases. Excess CSF in the brain cavities causes extra pressure to build-up in the brain and can potentially cause serious damage to surrounding brain tissue if the pressure grows or remains high. Symptoms of hydrocephalus vary with age and severity of the pressure, but common symptoms in adults include nausea, headache, lethargy, seizures, and irritability. Amongst younger children, swelling of the head is a more immediate sign of hydrocephalus. However, since severity and onset of symptoms of the disease vary between individuals, the disease can go undetected for long periods of time.
Hydrocephalus can be treated easily with the placement of a shunt, or a drainage tube, connecting the brain’s CSF-filled space to another area in the body. Kind of like a plumbing job that helps divert flow around a blockage, the shunt helps drain CSF from the brain in an alternate pathway and helps resolve or reduce the symptoms. Complications occur rarely, but infection, shunt disconnection, and blockage can occur and will need additional operation to fix. Hydrocephalus is a manageable and reversible disease when diagnosed early. As a result, it is important for individuals to be aware of the indicators of hydrocephalus and seek treatment as soon as possible.