ABOUT Hydrocephalus - Causes, Types, Symptoms and Treatments
What is Hydrocephalus?
People with hydrocephalus have an abnormally large head and brain. The excess fluid can lead to several problems such as increased pressure in the brain, headaches, and vision problems. Hydrocephalus is typically classified into two categories: noncommunicating and communicating.
Noncommunicating hydrocephalus occurs when there is no passage for fluids to drain away from the brain while communicating hydrocephalus occurs when there is a shunt (a tube that drains fluid from one place to another) that allows some fluid to drain from the skull. If left untreated, both types of hydrocephalus can cause drastic lifelong limitations in cognitive abilities and other areas such as motor skills.
What are the different types of Hydrocephalus?
Noncommunicating hydrocephalus occurs when there is no passage for fluids to drain away from the brain while communicating hydrocephalus occurs when there is a shunt (a tube that drains fluid from one place to another) that allows some fluid to drain from the skull.
What are the Causes of Hydrocephalus?
As with any other disease or disorder, it is easy to have multiple causes of hydrocephalus. Some causes are genetic or hereditary. Conditions such as cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, sickle cell disease, and brain tumors can also cause hydrocephalus. Infections such as toxoplasmosis, syphilis, and meningitis can also cause hydrocephalus. Many environmental factors have led to hydrocephalus in some children including lead poisoning.
What are the Symptoms of Hydrocephalus?
Common symptoms of hydrocephalus include vomiting, feeding problems, headaches, seizures, blindness, and changes in sleep patterns. A person will also have an enlarged head which is typically measured by measuring the circumference of the head with a tape measure or calliper around the head ball area. A doctor will perform a physical exam to look for any other conditions that may be contributing to hydrocephalus including tumors, infections, or other problems with the head and brain. Any abnormal findings should be immediately reported to a doctor so that you can receive appropriate testing and considering them as possible causes of hydrocephalus.
How is Hydrocephalus Diagnosed?
Hydrocephalus is diagnosed when there are enough symptoms to warrant consideration of hydrocephalus, but no other apparent cause for the headache or fever. Of course, for any serious condition that you or your child are suffering from, it is best to immediately see a doctor to be sure that there isn't another possible cause.
What Treatment options are available?
If your child's hydrocephalus is caused by a shunt malfunction, a doctor may have to complete a few tests to ensure the shunt is being maintained correctly. If the shunt needs to be replaced or there is a deterioration in its condition, a doctor will need to replace it. Most hydrocephalus is caused by a shunt malfunction or blockage of the fluid collecting area in the brain. A doctor will perform a head CT scan to determine if hydrocephalus is present and what type of diagnosis should be made to accurately steer them in the correct direction for further treatment.
The different types of shunt prostheses are often used depending on how much they allow the patient's brain to expand after surgery.
What is the Prognosis of Hydrocephalus?
A person with hydrocephalus will have good days and bad days. They will have to watch out for seizures, headaches, vision problems, and learning disabilities. A person with hydrocephalus cannot be cured, but they can go on to live a long life that includes many new experiences.
What are some of the Complications that are associated with Hydrocephalus?
The most common complication is cognitive impairment. Some people develop epilepsy which is a disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. Many people with hydrocephalus will need to use specialty beds or chairs to aid them in sitting up or standing due to poor muscle development. Some patients may go blind due to a buildup of fluid in the eye. Other complications include swallowing problems, deafness, and incontinence.
Frequently Asked Question
What type of follow-up care does a child with hydrocephalus require?
To maintain optimal health and quality of life for children living with hydrocephalus, continued follow-ups with an experienced medical professional are critical. These include regular appointments with doctors and nurses that can monitor any complications that may arise from treatments or operations that have been completed in the past.
What are the different types of shunts used for hydrocephalus?
A shunt is a device that allows excess fluid in the brain to drain away from it. The most common shunts are ventricular shunts which either drain fluid directly into an abdominal vein or bypass tubing through the skin and out of the emergency room via an intravenous catheter.
How common is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is one of the most common congenital diseases in the world affecting approximately 0.5%-1% of live births. It occurs more frequently in males than females on average by 50%.