Hydrocephalus happens when fluid builds up abnormally in the brain’s deep cavities (ventricles). Too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can prevent your brain from functioning properly. Infants and adults over age 60 are most likely to develop hydrocephalus, but how do you know who’s most at risk within those two age groups?
In this article, our neurology specialists from Link Neuroscience Institute explain two types of hydrocephalus and the risk factors for each type.
Types of hydrocephalus
Before diving into the risk factors for hydrocephalus, let’s first differentiate between congenital and acquired hydrocephalus. Congenital hydrocephalus is the type of hydrocephalus that affects newborn babies. They are either born with the condition or develop very soon after birth. On the other hand, acquired hydrocephalus is a condition that develops later in life.
Risk factors for hydrocephalus
Babies who are at the greatest risk for developing hydrocephalus include the following:
- Babies with inherited genetic abnormalities (such as Dandy Walker malformation, arachnoid cysts, or abnormalities on the X chromosome)
- Babies born with birth deficiencies that affect the brain or spinal cord
- Premature babies who experienced ventricle bleeding during labor or shortly after birth
- Babies born to mothers who had rubella during pregnancy
- Babies born with spina bifida
Adults who are at the greatest risk of developing acquired hydrocephalus include those with the following:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Brain or spinal cord tumors
- Brain hemorrhage
- Stroke or any injury that causes brain bleeds
Regardless of age, anyone is at risk for hydrocephalus if they develop bacterial meningitis.
How do you know if you have hydrocephalus?
Newborns are often diagnosed at birth with hydrocephalus if they have a bulging spot on their head, seizures, or downcast eyes. Teens and adults may experience other symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, memory lapses, and vision troubles. Because many of these symptoms can overlap with over conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, hydrocephalus is diagnosed with a neurological exam, a review of your symptoms and medical history, and an analysis of any imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Hydrocephalus may seem scary at first, but the good news is that there are several treatment options. Usually, our team places a shunt. A shunt is a special tube that drains excess CSF from your brain. This reduces the pressure in your brain and helps alleviate your symptoms.
Our team may also recommend an endoscopic third ventriculostomy. This procedure creates a new drainage hole within or between your ventricles, allowing the fluid to drain through the new hole.
Questions? Give our Oxnard or Santa Barbara, California, office a call to learn more about hydrocephalus and your treatment options. You can also use our online booking tool.