Hydrocephalus Awareness Week

Hydrocephalus Awareness Week

12th Fri, Mar, 2021

To help raise the profile Hydrocephalus Awareness Week this week, we have produced a short but informative article:

What is Hydrocephalus?

  • Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid in the brain. The excess fluid puts pressure on the brain, which can damage it.
  • If left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal.

How do you get Hydrocephalus? 

  • congenital hydrocephalus – hydrocephalus that's present at birth
  • acquired hydrocephalus – hydrocephalus that develops after birth, usually after an illness or injury
  • normal pressure hydrocephalus – usually only develops in older people, sometimes after an injury or a stroke, but in most cases the cause is unknown.

What causes Hydrocephalus?

In the past, hydrocephalus was referred to as "water on the brain". However, the brain is not surrounded by water but by a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).  CSF has 3 important functions:

  • it protects the brain from damage
  • it removes waste products from the brain
  • it provides the brain with the nutrients it needs to function properly

The brain constantly produces new CSF (about a pint a day), while old fluid is released from the brain and absorbed into the blood vessels. But if this process is interrupted, the amount of CSF can quickly build up, causing pressure in the brain.

What are the symptoms?

Different types of hydrocephalus can cause specific symptoms but generally, the most common symptoms of damage to the brain from hydrocephalus include:

  • headache
  • being sick
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty walking

Many babies born with hydrocephalus (congenital hydrocephalus) have permanent brain damage.  This can cause several long-term complications, such as:

  • learning disabilities
  • speech problems
  • memory problems
  • short attention span
  • problems with organisational skills
  • vision problems, such as a squint and vision loss
  • problems with physical coordination
  • epilepsy

Can Hydrocephalus be treated?

Hydrocephalus is usually treated with surgery.

Babies who are born with hydrocephalus (congenital) and children or adults who develop it (acquired hydrocephalus) usually need prompt treatment to reduce the pressure on their brain. 

If hydrocephalus is not treated, the increase in pressure will cause brain damage.

Both congenital and acquired hydrocephalus are treated with either shunt surgery or neuroendoscopy.

Help and support

If you have a child with hydrocephalus, or if you've been diagnosed with the condition yourself, you may find it helpful to speak to other people affected by hydrocephalus.

We have been proud to help raise awareness of one of the fantastic small charities listed on our website.  Set up in 2018 to help children and their families who are affected by Hydrocephalus, Harry's Hat (Harry's HAT | Harry’s Hydrocephalus Awareness Trust (harrys-hat.org) are doing an incredible job of raising awareness, supporting/funding research and signposting families to appopriate advice, support and guidance.  A huge thank you from all at Social Responsibility for the fantastic work done by Harry's Hat!

Shine, the spina bifida and hydrocephalus charity, can also provide you with the details of local support groups and organisations. Shine - Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus (shinecharity.org.uk)