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Water on the Brain Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms of hydrocephalus depend on the area of the brain affected and the severity of the hydrocephalus. Symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as more CSF accumulates. The CSF puts pressure on structures within the brain, causing symptoms.

Symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Problems with balance
  • Difficulty walking
  • Poor coordination
  • Incontinence
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Dementia in the elderly
  • Coma and death
  • In babies:
    • Slow development
    • Loss of developmental milestones
    • Bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the head)
    • Large head circumference


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include:

  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the brain
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the brain
  • Ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to examine the brain

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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