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: GeeGee1958, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 12

I was born in May 1958. I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus in September of that year. The shunt was implanted but no one knew what to do. My mother barely 20, was told contradictory information like, 'pump the shunt daily', and 'don't touch it'. We moved to Germany when I was a year old. The doctors there knew even less. I had a couple of incidents where the shunt stopped working but no surgery until I was 6 when they inserted an extension to the drainage tube; that was in the superior vena cava but as I grew it came out of that vein and they put the extension down into my right arm. I had no major problems for several years. The last week of my junior year of high school I got a headache. We initially thought it was stress but it was still there after several weeks. The neurosurgeon assured us there as nothing to worry about as I had no other symptoms. Two years and seven doctors later they replaced the original shunt. I had a 'severe' headache (literally hurt to blink for two days) for two weeks. That headache gradually dissipated over the course of three months. That was in June of 1977. I've been fine since. I graduated from junior college and have worked as a physical therapist assistant since 1981.

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Comment from: Fred, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: November 24

I received a severe trauma to my brain 7 years ago. I had a severe head ache that a high tech therapist who uses electro crystal therapy along with another high tech bio feedback device called SCENAR and a cranial sacral therapy on me were able to relieve. My head ache didn't bother me for years, then I began getting a head ache that was progressively getting worse. It felt like my skull was being blown up like a balloon. I would put light pressure on my head with my hands and feel the plates in my skull move. So I was certain my head was being blown up like a balloon and at the time I thought this was being caused by all the scar tissue caused from my brain healing so many damaged wiring in my brain. Then I went through the situation of experiencing a problem with one of my teeth that was very painful. I'm not 100 percent sure what was the true cause of the sudden release of the pressure in my head. It could be something else but to the best of my thinking I believe it was the pain from my tooth that relieved the pressure in my head. I was in pain from my tooth and at the same time I felt euphoric because I experienced the sudden release of the pressure in my head that was causing me to experience a very difficult type of headache to tolerate. It took 7 years for me to realize hydrocephalus was the cause of my headache.

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