Older gentleman recovering from hydrocephalus at The Christ Hospital.

​The term hydrocephalus, which literally means “water on the brain,” is when there are abnormally enlarged ventricles at the center of the brain. It is a rare condition resulting from extra cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in and around the brain. The fluid supports and buffers the brain and spinal cord, but too much fluid can put excess pressure on the brain. 

Hydrocephalus can happen at any age. In adults, hydrocephalus occurs when extra cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels rise. Although the amount of pressure may be normal, it still causes the brain to swell leading to decreased function. 

Hydrocephalus categories and types

Categories of hydrocephalus are: 

  • Congenital—the condition is present at birth.

  • Acquired—affects individuals of all ages and may be caused by injury or disease.

Types of hydrocephalus include:

  • Communicating hydrocephalus—occurs when excess CSF is found without an obvious blockage

  • Hydrocephalus ex-vacuo—the fluid buildup happens after stroke, traumatic brain injury or some degenerative diseases when the brain wastes away.

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH )—this usually begins slowly and is more common in adults over age 60. Typically, the symptoms include problems with memory, walking and urinary incontinence; however any of these symptoms can be found alone. One of the first symptoms is a sudden fall without losing consciousness. Patients with NPH are often misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, since some symptoms of these conditions are similar.

  • Obstructive hydrocephalus—the blockage of spinal fluid flow, such as from a brain tumor, Chiari malformation or a previous brain hemorrhage.

Hydrocephalus causes and risks

Some of causes and risks for hydrocephalus in adults are: 

  • Bleeding blood vessel in the brain

  • Brain infections, such a meningitis 

  • Brain surgery

  • Central nervous system tumors

  • Head trauma 

Hydrocephalus symptoms

If you recognize symptoms of this condition get medical attention quickly.

Common symptoms are:

  • Bladder control problems

  • Changes in walking pattern

  • Difficulty waking up or staying awake 

  • Headache

  • Impaired vision and cognitive skills 

  • Loss of coordination or balance

  • Memory loss

Living with hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus can cause permanent brain damage and affect physical and mental development. This condition is even potentially fatal when not treated. Thankfully, most forms of hydrocephalus are treatable, and many are even curable.  In fact, proper treatment allows many people to lead relatively normal lives.

Why choose The Christ Hospital Health Network

Your will receive compassionate, comprehensive hydrocephalus care and support from our experienced team of neurosurgeons and neurosurgery nurses.

Our dedicated neurosurgery team includes expert neurosurgeons, pediatric specialists, neonatal specialists and behavioral medicine. This team works together to provide expert treatment for adults with hydrocephalus.

Find out more about hydrocephalus care at The Christ Hospital Health Network.