8 surprising facts about hydrocephalus

1. Hydrocephalus is a condition of excess fluid in the brain, called cerebrospinal fluid. It is somewhat common, but is not a commonly known condition. This condition is also known as Water on the Brain, due to the primary characteristic of extra fluid being blocked in the brain’s ventricles (cavities).

2. Hippocrates, a Greek physician often discussed in ancient history class, first described this condition.

3. There are around 700,000 people – adults and children – with the condition. However, perhaps due to lack of social awareness and therefore advocacy, there is not much work being done in the scientific research community to treat or cure hydrocephalus.

4. 1960 was the first time a cerebral shunt was implanted in the brain to redirect the excess fluid. This became the primary method of treatment and is mostly the same some 50 years later. Shunts are not particularly reliable treatment, and often fail and must be replaced.

5. There are almost 200 known causes of hydrocephalus. It is usually due to a blockage keeping the fluid from moving out of the brain. In babies, this can come from brain hemorrhage during premature birth.

6. The extra fluid increases the pressure in the brain, causing complications such as convulsions and brain damage. The severity of symptoms varies throughout individuals. Intellectual disability from brain damage is rare if the condition is caught and treated early.

7. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea and vomiting, sleepiness or even coma. In babies and toddlers the head may be enlarged. Learning disabilities are common as are problems with movement and vision. Some children may develop seizures.

8. Death rates have greatly decreased due to shunt treatment, from 54 percent to only 5 percent. Overall, the rate of intellectual disability has increased by about 30 percent, due to those with more severe hydrocephalus surviving but being more likely to have complications. the 7 a p rmine if symptoms are caused by Huntington’s. If one of the individual’s parents has had Huntington’s, the individual has a 50-50 chance of having the gene. Therefore, genetic testing can be done at any age to determine if the genetic mutation is present.

8. Genetic testing is emotionally tricky, since some people may feel tormented wondering if they will contract the condition, whereas others may feel burdened by the knowledge that they will sometime develop it. Genetic counseling is offered before and after the testing to help with this difficult decision and knowledge.

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