Alternate Names : Water on the brain
Symptoms & Signs
The symptoms depend on the cause of the blockage, the person's age, and how much brain tissue has been damaged by the swelling.
In infants with hydrocephalus, CSF fluid builds up in the central nervous system, causing the fontanelle (soft spot) to bulge and the head to be larger than expected. Early symptoms may also include:
- Eyes that appear to gaze downward
- Separated sutures
Symptoms that may occur in older children can include:
- Brief, shrill, high-pitched cry
- Changes in personality, memory, or the ability to reason or think
- Changes in facial appearance and eye spacing
- Crossed eyes or uncontrolled eye movements
- Difficulty feeding
- Excessive sleepiness
- Irritability, poor temper control
- Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
- Loss of coordination and trouble walking
- Muscle spasticity (spasm)
- Slow growth (child 0-5 years)
- Slow or restricted movement
Diagnosis & Tests
When a health care provider taps fingertips on the skull, there may be abnormal sounds that indicated thinning and separation of skull bones. Scalp veins may appear stretched or enlarged.
Part or the entire head may be larger than normal. Enlargement is most commonly seen in the front part of the head. Head circumference measurements, repeated over time, may show that the head is getting bigger.
The eyes may look "sunken in." The white part of the eye may appear above the colored part of the eye, given the eyes a "setting-sun" appearance. Reflexes may be abnormal.
A head CT scan is one of the best tests for identifying hydrocephalus. Other tests that may be done include:
- Brain scan using radioisotopes
- Cranial ultrasound (an ultrasound of the brain)
- Lumbar puncture and examination of the cerebrospinal fluid (rarely done)
- Skull x-rays