Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition that is also known as water on the brain. The fluid isn't actually water, it's cerebrospinal fluid.
Cerebrospinal fluid is normally doing a good job delivering nutrients to the brain, and protecting the brain as a kind of liquid shock absorber.
But when there's too much of it, soft tissue damage in the brain can be the result. Pressure increases inside the skull. This can lead to many neurological difficulties.
Hydrocephalus commonly starts in the womb. Young children with hydrocephalus may also experience infection of the central nervous system like meningitis or encephalitis, or bleeding in the brain associated with labor or delivery, or other birth injuries.
Tumors of the central nervous system, or other injuries or trauma may also be linked with hydrocephalus.
The earliest sign of problems may be enlarged head size, as the skull grows to house the expanding brain and cerebrospinal fluid.
Babies with hydrocephalus may be irritable, with seizures, sleepiness and vomiting. Their eyes may oddly appear to be gazing in a downward direction.
Older children may experience changes in the appearance of their face, and of the spacing of their eyes. Their eyes may cross or move uncontrollably. They may appear sunken. The whites of their eyes sometimes can be seen above the iris (colored part of the eye).
Their physical and mental growth and development may be slowed, movement may be uncoordinated and restricted. Reflexes may not be normal.
Upon examination, the doctor may tap their fingers on the skull. The resultant sound may be distinctive, possibly indicating a thinning and separation of the skull bones.
The veins of the scalp may look stretched. The front part of the head is the most commonly enlarged area.
A CT scan of the head can be useful. Arteriography, skull x-rays, ultrasound of the brain, and rarely lumbar puncture, are other tests that may be revealing.
There is no known cure at this time for water on the brain. But treatments can make life easier. Shunts may be inserted into the brain to drain fluid. Monitoring of the shunt is needed to assure proper drainage.