What is hydrocephalus?

Pediatrician Wendy Mitchell, MD, explains the two different types of Hydrocephalus that can occur as well as the causes and symptoms of Hydrocephalus
The Causes and Symptoms of Hydrocephalus
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What is hydrocephalus?

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Hydrocephalus literally means "water head." Most people say it is water on the brain, but it's not water, it's spinal fluid. Your head is contains in the various compartments; brain, blood vessels, membranes, and fluid spaces called ventricles and subarachnoid space. So normally, cerebral spinal fluid is produced inside the ventricles through an organ called your choroid plexus, excretes the fluid. The fluid travels down through the pathways around the brain and the spinal cord and comes up over the top, where it's absorbed back into the bloodstream, back into the veins. Two different kinds of Hydrocephalus can occur, and sometimes they can be a mix. One is called Obstructive Hydrocephalus, where there is a block some place in the fluid flow. The ventricle blow up, the fluid never gets over the top of the brain to be absorbed. The ventricles get big and presses on the surrounding brain. Without relieving that pressure, the brain tissue is progressively destroyed. That's called Obstructive Hydrocephalus. The other kind of Hydrocephalus is called Communicating Hydrocephalus. The fluid is produced, but it's not absorbed properly. There can be lots of different causes of these. Either way, in a brain that has normal sized ventricle, they tend to be small narrow sized slits. In a brain with Hydrocephalus, the ventricles are big and you see pressure on the brain from the excess fluid in the ventricles.

Pediatrician Wendy Mitchell, MD, explains the two different types of Hydrocephalus that can occur as well as the causes and symptoms of Hydrocephalus

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Wendy Mitchell, MD

Pediatrician, Neurology, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Wendy Mitchell, MD, is Professor of Clinical Neurology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. She is acting Division Head of Neurology at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where she has practiced for over 30 years. She is a native of Los Angeles. Her current research interests include cognitive and behavioral aspects of childhood epilepsy, clinical research in anticonvulsants, and a rare immune-mediated syndrome, opsoclonus-myoclonus (or dancing eyes syndrome). In her free time she enjoys scuba diving and yoga.

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