Hydrocephalus is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes swelling in the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid generally travels through the cavities of the brain, also called ventricles. But during hydrocephalus, the excess fluid causes the ventricles to expand and puts pressure on other parts of the brain. Brain damage can occur as a result of this fluid buildup. This can lead to developmental, physical, and intellectual deficits. It requires prompt treatment to avoid serious complications. Hydrocephalus mainly occurs in children and adults over the age of 60, but young adults can also have it.

In hydrocephalus, there is an imbalance between the production and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid, leading to an increased amount of fluid within the brain's ventricles. This excess fluid can exert pressure on the brain, potentially causing damage to the delicate brain tissue.

There are two main types of hydrocephalus:

  1. Obstructive (Non-communicating) Hydrocephalus:

    • This occurs when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked after it exits the ventricles.
    • The blockage can occur at various points, such as the aqueduct of Sylvius (a narrow passage connecting two of the brain's ventricles) or the foramina (small openings allowing fluid to exit the ventricles).
  2. Communicating Hydrocephalus:

    • In this type, there is impaired absorption of cerebrospinal fluid, leading to its accumulation despite normal flow and exit from the ventricles.
    • The blockage is usually at the level of the arachnoid granulations, structures responsible for absorbing cerebrospinal fluid into the bloodstream.

Hydrocephalus can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life due to various factors, including:

  • Brain Tumors: Tumors can block the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Infections: Infections, such as meningitis, can cause inflammation and obstruct the flow of fluid.
  • Bleeding in the Brain: Hemorrhage or bleeding within the brain can lead to hydrocephalus.
  • Trauma: Head injuries may result in the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Developmental Abnormalities: Some individuals may have congenital conditions that predispose them to hydrocephalus.

The symptoms of hydrocephalus can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision problems, and changes in mental function. In infants, symptoms may include an enlarged head, prominent forehead, and developmental delays.

Treatment typically involves surgically diverting or removing excess cerebrospinal fluid. This can be done through the placement of a shunt (a tube that allows the fluid to drain from the brain into another part of the body, often the abdominal cavity) or through endoscopic procedures to create channels for fluid drainage. The choice of treatment depends on the specific cause and type of hydrocephalus.


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