Hydrocephalus is the buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Normally, this fluid cushions your brain. When you have too much, though, it puts harmful pressure on your brain.
Hydrocephalus can be congenital, or present at birth. Causes include genetic problems and problems with how the fetus develops. An unusually large head is the main sign of congenital hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus can also happen after birth. This is called acquired hydrocephalus. It can occur at any age. Causes can include head injuries, strokes, infections, tumors, and bleeding in the brain. Symptoms include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Blurry vision
- Balance problems
- Bladder control problems
- Thinking and memory problems
Hydrocephalus can permanently damage the brain, causing problems with physical and mental development. If untreated, it is usually fatal. With treatment, many people lead normal lives with few limitations. Treatment usually involves surgery to insert a shunt. A shunt is a flexible but sturdy plastic tube. The shunt moves the cerebrospinal fluid to another area of the body where it can be absorbed. Medicine and rehabilitation therapy can also help.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Diagnosis and Tests
- Computed Tomography (CT) -- Head (American College of Radiology; Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) -- Head (American College of Radiology; Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Ultrasound: Head (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Dandy-Walker malformation: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
- L1 syndrome: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
- Megalencephaly-polymicrogyria-polydactyly-hydrocephalus syndrome: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
Statistics and Research
- 20 Powerful Facts about Hydrocephalus (Hydrocephalus Association)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Hydrocephalus (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Aetiology and diagnostics of paediatric hydrocephalus across Africa: a systematic review...
- Article: Postinfectious hydrocephalus in African infants: common, under-recognised, devastating, and potentially preventable.
- Article: Cerebral infarction in HIV-negative patients with cryptococcal meningitis: its predictors and...
- Hydrocephalus -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (Alzheimer's Association)
- Brain surgery (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Hydrocephalus (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Ventriculoperitoneal shunt (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Ventriculoperitoneal shunt - discharge (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish