Symptoms Of Hydrocephalus

What Are The Symptoms Of Hydrocephalus?

Introduction to Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a neurological disease that happens when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain in a way that shouldn’t happen. This buildup of fluid can exert pressure on the brain, potentially leading to severe complications. Recognizing the symptoms of hydrocephalus is vital to ensure early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 

Common Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

Headache and vomiting: 

Frequent and severe headaches are a common early symptom of hydrocephalus. Nausea and vomiting may also accompany the headaches. 

Blurred or double vision: 

Hydrocephalus can affect the optic nerve, leading to visual disturbances like blurred or double vision. 

Changes in behavior and personality: 

People with hydrocephalus may experience mood swings, irritability, and alterations in their usual behavior. 

Difficulty in walking or poor coordination: 

Gait disturbances, imbalance, and clumsiness are typical signs of hydrocephalus, particularly in older individuals. 

Cognitive decline and memory issues: 

  • Hydrocephalus can cause problems with memory, concentration, and overall cognitive functioning. 

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Specific Groups

Symptoms in infants and children: 

In babies, hydrocephalus may lead to a rapid increase in head size, vomiting, sleepiness, and seizures. Older children might exhibit irritability, poor academic performance, and delayed development. 

Symptoms in adults: 

Adults with hydrocephalus may experience cognitive decline, urinary incontinence, and difficulty in walking. 

Symptoms in elderly individuals: 

Hydrocephalus in older adults can manifest as gait disturbances, memory loss, and impaired bladder control. 

Types of Hydrocephalus and Their Distinctive Symptoms

Communicating hydrocephalus: 

In this type, the cerebrospinal fluid flows freely but gets absorbed too slowly, leading to increased pressure. Symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. 

Non-communicating hydrocephalus: 

Blockages obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in this type, causing a buildup and pressure. 

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH): 

NPH typically affects older adults and may present with symptoms similar to other types of hydrocephalus. However, the characteristic feature is that cerebrospinal fluid accumulates without an increase in pressure.

Diagnosing Hydrocephalus

Medical history and physical examination:

A thorough assessment of the patient’s medical history and a neurological examination are crucial initial steps.

Imaging tests (CT scan, MRI):

Computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide detailed images of the brain, aiding in the diagnosis.

Lumbar puncture (spinal tap):

A lumbar puncture involves extracting cerebrospinal fluid through a needle inserted into the lower back for further analysis.

Treatment Options

Shunt placement surgery: 

A shunt is a medical device that helps drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to another part of the body. 

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV): 

ETV is a minimally invasive procedure where a small hole is made in the floor of the third ventricle to allow cerebrospinal fluid to flow freely. 

Third ventriculostomy with choroid plexus coagulation (TVC): 

TVC involves cauterizing a portion of the choroid plexus to reduce cerebrospinal fluid production. 

Prevention and Conclusion

Hydrocephalus can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life if left untreated. While certain cases of hydrocephalus cannot be prevented, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can minimize complications. If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms mentioned, seek immediate medical attention to ensure timely intervention and better outcomes. Remember, recognizing the symptoms early can make all the difference. 

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Dr. Arun Rajeswaran

Consult Dr. Arun with a professional experience of more than 13 years in the field of Neurosurgery

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