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September is Hydrocephalus awareness month: 4 FAQs

Hydrocephalus is a relatively common birth defect. Medical professionals diagnose over 1 million Americans with the disorder, and yet the public knows little about hydrocephalus. In an effort to increase awareness, and hopefully lead to an increase in research funds, the Hydrocephalus Association has dedicated the month of September as Hydrocephalus Awareness month.

What is hydrocephalus?

This brain disorder is, essentially, an excess of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is present to help cushion the brain from injury and remove waste from the brain. Blood vessels within tissues around the brain generally absorb the fluid. Those with hydrocephalus are unable to properly absorb the excess fluid. This can lead to a dangerous build up of fluid surrounding the brain.

How serious is this brain disorder?

Hydrocephalus is a life-threatening disorder. Too much pressure from the excess fluid can result in brain damage. As a result, physicians may recommend the use of brain shunts to treat the disorder. A doctor surgically implants the shunts within the brain to help drain the excess fluid.

What are the common symptoms of hydrocephalus?

Signs that can indicate the presence of this brain disorder include a larger than normal head size and a rapid growth of the infant's head. Physical symptoms can range from mild and include sleepiness, irritability and poor feeding to the more severe and include vomiting, a downward fix to the eyes and seizures.

What causes hydrocephalus?

In infants, this brain disorder is generally the result of an abnormal development in the central nervous system, infection in the uterus during pregnancy causing inflammation in the infant's brain tissue or a traumatic delivery.  

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