Hydrocephalus - Describe Your Experience

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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)--a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The excessive accumulation of CSF results in an abnormal widening of spaces in the brain called ventricles. This widening creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain.

The ventricular system is made up of four ventricles connected by narrow passages.. Normally, CSF flows through the ventricles, exits into cisterns (closed spaces that serve as reservoirs) at the base of the brain, bathes the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord, and then reabsorbs into the bloodstream.

CSF has three important life-sustaining functions: 1) to keep the brain tissue buoyant, acting as a cushion or "shock absorber"; 2) to act as the vehicle for delivering nutrients to the brain and removing waste; and 3) to flow between the cranium and spine and compensate for changes in intracranial blood volume (the amount of blood within the brain).

The balance between production and absorption of CSF is critically important. Because CSF is made continuously, medical conditions that block its normal flow or absorption will result in an over-accumulation of CSF. The resulting pressure of the fluid against brain tissue is what causes hydrocephalus.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Ozcloggie, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: May 14

At 71, I now have to accept that I do have that 'water on the brain' or hydrocephalus. All these years I have recounted how my mother was upset, when she proudly walked with me in the pram and passers-by sympathized. As a primary school teacher (37 years) I had to explain that my head was/is too big for (normal) hats/caps to keep off the sun, while having to make the pupils wear hats. Now I shall be having an operation, after the MRI showed where the problem lies. I have no problems with balance etc., but memory is getting shaky. Even that diagnosis is affected by having moved residence twice recently and feeling a bit lost.

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Comment from: kat, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 09

I had the shunt surgery for hydrocephalus in November of 1963 just after turning 1 year old. The doctors told my mom that if I didn't grow fast I shouldn't need a revision and I never did. Other than a spell of headaches when I was about 9 that went away I have had no problems. From reading these posts I am very aware of how fortunate I am and am very grateful. I do wish I could find people my age who were born with this. I have always wondered if it would affect me as I got older. So far so good. I hope for the best for all of you.

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