Is your baby’s head unusually large? Are you worried that your baby or someone else you love is a victim of hydrocephalus? This article will help you understand better about hydrocephalus, its symptoms, and causes.
What Is Hydrocephalus?
You know that our body is almost 70% liquid (1). This includes the water, blood, and fluid content that are inside and surrounding your tissues and organs. Cerebro Spinal Fluid (CSF) is a fluid that is present inside your skull and it protects your brain from injuries. The folds and lobes of your brain are cushioned by this fluid and it contains nutrients and proteins that keep your brain healthy. Hydrocephalus is a condition when the fluids inside your head are excessive and it doesn’t function the way it should.
Sometimes the CSF doesn’t get absorbed or it doesn’t flow the way it is supposed to (2). The end result of this dysfunction may include backups and blockages that can result in unusual pressure on your brain. Hydrocephalus mostly occurs in infants or in aged people but it can also happen to anyone no matter their age. Even though it cannot be cured completely, early detection and treatment can ease the symptoms.
What Are The Causes of Hydrocephalus?
There are three main causes of hydrocephalus- a blockage, poor fluid absorption, and too much fluid (3). A blockage in the brain can occur due to many reasons including tumors, cysts, birth-related issues, or other objects. Poor fluid absorption mainly happens because of inflammation, injuries, or problems like bacterial meningitis. Sometimes, your body makes CSF more than necessary and this too can cause hydrocephalus.
What Are The Symptoms of Hydrocephalus?
The symptoms of hydrocephalus vary according to the age of the person (4). In babies who are affected by hydrocephalus, you will find an unusually large head that is growing larger day by day, a firmness or bulging of soft spots on the head, eyes that are focused downwards, poor appetite, crankiness, and vomiting.
If the affected person is a toddler or a child, the symptoms may include headaches, abnormally large head, blurry vision, seizures, low energy, bad balance and coordination, and poor appetite (5). Adults younger than 60 might experience poor memory and concentration, headaches, poor balance and coordination, tiredness, and change in vision when they are affected by the issue. For adults who are above 60 years of age, hydrocephalus symptoms include losing bladder control, memory loss, trouble with walking, balancing, or coordination, and weak processing skills.
Four Different Types Of Hydrocephalus
There are four major types of hydrocephalus (6). The first type is congenital which means that the person is born with hydrocephalus. Compensated hydrocephalus is the next- in this case, the person may have hydrocephalus even before birth but the symptoms start showing later in life. The third type of hydrocephalus is acquired hydrocephalus. This is caused due to a tumor, cyst, injury in the head, or an infection in the brain. Older adults are most affected by the fourth type- normal pressure hydrocephalus. It results in swelling of certain areas of the brain that are open and the cause of this type of hydrocephalus is yet to be found.
Diagnosis And Treatments
In case you feel that any of your loved ones are affected by hydrocephalus, take them to the doctor immediately. The doctor will probably conduct an imaging test like a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan or a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan in order to detect the symptoms of hydrocephalus (7).
If the issue isn’t very serious, treatment may not be necessary. But in case the issue is on the deeper side, the doctor may suggest surgery. The surgery is usually done to insert a shunt- a flexible plastic tube, in order to normalize the flow of the fluid. A shunt is something permanent and after the surgery, frequent checkups are required to make sure that it is functioning properly.
Proper detection of hydrocephalus can make things a lot better than if it’s discovered at a later stage. So, if you ever feel that your baby or someone you know is showing the symptoms, take them to a doctor as soon as possible.
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