Victims usually are derided for its effect, that of having a bigger head than usual, to almost unreal proportions. This disorder can generally be found at birth and has rather apparent effects. It gets its name from the Greek words “hydro” and “cephalus,” respectively meaning “water” and “head.” It was believed in the past to be just excess water, but later on, it was discovered that such water was spinal fluid, known as cerebrospinal fluid.
This fluid is essential for three things:
- keeping brain tissue afloat
- a conduit for bringing nutrients in and waste out
- to compensate for changes in blood volume inside the head
In excess, however, it stretches the ventricles too far, which are spaces in the brain. Such abnormal stretching is the reason behind a more prominent head size that hydrocephalus patients are mostly known for, as associated with the illness.
Unfortunately, science cannot understand well the reason why hydrocephalus happens. It is suspected to be caused by genetic abnormalities or developmental disorders. Other suspected culprits include premature birth complications, among them, are:
– intraventricular hemorrhage (internal blood loss that doesn’t escape the body),
– diseases like meningitis or tumors,
– traumatic head injury,
– subarachnoid hemorrhage.
All afflictions mentioned above block CSF movement, in entry or exit.
This health issue should be diagnosed by doing a thorough neurological assessment handled by a specialist and by utilizing advanced medical technology like cranial imaging. It can be ultrasonography, CT scan, MRI, or pressure-monitoring techniques. A physician selects the methods based on the patient’s specifics: age, pre-existing conditions, and clinical presentation.
The prognosis on people affected with hydrocephalus varies on different factors. Dealing with the prognosis is an unpredictable task, although there may be a correlation between the cause of the hydrocephalus and the outcome. Furthermore, the prognosis can be clouded by presently associated disorders, the time the diagnosis was made, and treatment success.
As for the risks hydrocephalus possesses, it presents a danger to both cognitive and physical development. There is, however, a chance to recover to a semblance of normalcy with a few limitations, with the help of rehab therapies and educational interventions. Treatment is done right by a combined-discipline team of medical professionals, rehab specialists, and educational experts can mean the difference between success and failure. Untreated; however, it can be fatal, especially if it’s of the progressive kind.
Symptoms brought about by normal pressure hydrocephalus do get worse, if left unchecked. While shunt treatment success varies from person to person, it usually is recommended to do so for treating hydrocephalus. Diagnosis and treatment done early can be critical for proper recovery.
As of present writing, NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke), National Institutes of Health, along with other relevant institutions are researching hydrocephalus, and are taking on additional support with grants to major medical institutions across the nation. The main focus of this research is on how best to treat and prevent the disorder, which ultimately may lead to a cure. A conglomerate of centers collaborating for research was born out of the first NIH workshop on Hydrocephalus, known as the Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network (HCRN). The Network consists of seven pediatric centers that put together their combined data on their respective hydrocephalus patients to further spur on research for improved medication.