Hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, is not just a condition that affects infants — children and adults can have it as well.
When a patient has hydrocephalus, the cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, that surrounds the spinal cord and brain builds up, either because too much is produced, the flow is blocked, or the fluid is not absorbed. As a result, the CSF build-up puts pressure on the brain, which damages the brain tissue.
While some cases of hydrocephalus are congenital, other cases are acquired, in which the cause of the CSF build-up occurs after birth. These causes of water on the brain can occur at any age, including patients in adulthood. For example, tumors or lesions that occur in the central nervous system — the brain and the spinal cord — may contribute to water on the brain in adults.
If a person sustains a brain injury, the traumatic injury or resulting bleeding in the brain may increase the risk of hydrocephalus. Other factors that may lead to water on the brain in adults are infections such as mumps and bacterial meningitis.
Another condition that adults may have is normal pressure hydrocephalus. With this condition, the patient has an increase in her cerebrospinal fluid, but the pressure in the brain does not increase. Like the other form of hydrocephalus, normal pressure hydrocephalus may occur after a head injury or central nervous system infection.
Bleeding in the brain may contribute to normal pressure hydrocephalus, such as from a ruptured aneurysm. Some patients may have the condition after undergoing a craniotomy. MedlinePlus added that normal pressure hydrocephalus may account for about 5 percent of dementia cases.
When water on the brain occurs in adults, headaches, impaired vision and trouble staying awake may occur. Patients may have difficulty with their balance and coordination. Cognitive functions may become affected, including trouble with thinking, concentration and memory.