Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – What is Hydrocephalus?

Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – What is Hydrocephalus?

Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – What is Hydrocephalus?

The term hydrocephalus is derived from the Greek words “hydro” meaning water and “cephalus” meaning head. As the name implies, it is a condition in which the primary characteristic is excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. Although hydrocephalus was once known as “water on the brain”, the “water” is actually cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

While the cause of hydrocephalus is still not well understood, symptoms of hydrocephalus vary with age, disease progression and individual differences intolerance to the condition. While children with the condition often have unusually large heads, adults may experience different symptoms because their skulls cannot expand to accommodate the buildup of CSF. Symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Problems with balance
  • Poor coordination
  • Gait disturbance
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Irritability
  • Changes in personality or cognition
  • And memory loss

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus symptoms can also include problems with walking, impaired bladder control leading to urinary frequency or incontinence, and progressive mental impairment and dementia. An individual with this type of hydrocephalus may have a general slowing of movements or may complain that his or her feet feel “stuck”. Because some of these symptoms may also be experienced in other disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus is often incorrectly diagnosed and rarely properly treated.

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