Hydrocephalus in Adults: Symptoms, Life Expectancy & Management

Hydrocephalus, an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, is a serious condition that can have significant consequences in adults. Learn more about the various causes of hydrocephalus, as well as tips to manage your symptoms and extend your life expectancy.

What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a condition caused by the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain. The fluid puts pressure on surrounding structures and can cause signs and symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, trouble maintaining balance, increased head size, vision problems, problems with memory or thinking, confusion and seizures.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Adults

Symptoms of hydrocephalus in adults may include headaches, vomiting, changes in vision, difficulty with memory or thinking, problems with balance and coordination, confusion and seizures. Other less common symptoms can include dementia, delirium, personality changes, lethargy and a decline in physical abilities. If left untreated, hydrocephalus can eventually cause permanent brain damage and death.

Causes of Hydrocephalus in Adults

Hydrocephalus in adults typically occurs from conditions that impair normal CSF flow such as tumors, head injury, stroke and infections of the central nervous system. Additionally, it can be caused by abnormal development of the brain before or shortly after birth, genetic disorders such as aqueduct stenosis, infections in the brain during adulthood, age-related changes to the spine’s fluid-filled chambers (known as ventricles), and other rare diseases.

Managing Hydrocephalus: Treatment & Lifestyle Changes

The goal of hydrocephalus management is to reduce the pressure in the affected brain cells, which can be achieved with medical intervention and lifestyle changes. Some treatment options for adults include medications, shunt system placement or revision, cyst fenestration (opening of a cyst), or endoscopic third ventriculostomy – all of which are designed to restore the normal flow of CSF in and around the brain. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as staying hydrated to ensure good CSF flow and limiting alcohol intake may help to manage symptoms.

Life Expectancy with Hydrocephalus

Life expectancy with hydrocephalus is usually normal, however, it depends on the severity and degree of damage inflicted on the brain by the increased pressure. When treated early and managed properly, many of individuals have a long life ahead of them. Risk factors can lead to delays or complications in treatment thus leading to a decreased quality of life or even death due to the condition. Timely diagnosis and adequate management are key to living an extended life with hydrocephalus.

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