Category: 

What Is Water on the Brain?

Traumatic brain injury sustained in an accident is one possible cause of hydrocephalus.
In some instances, hydrocephalus is a congenital condition that is caused by irregularities in the brain's structure.
The human brain.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The fewest car accident fatalities occur on Tuesdays.  more...

October 23 ,  1983 :  Suicide bombers killed nearly 300 US and French military troops in Beirut.  more...

Water on the brain, known more formally as hydrocephalus, is a neurological condition characterized by a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. This fluid normally delivers nutrients to the brain and acts as a shock absorber to protect the brain, but when it builds up, it can damage the soft tissues of the brain and increase the pressure inside the skull, leading to a variety of neurological problems. Hydrocephalus is the leading cause of brain surgery among children, and numerous people all over the world live with this condition, some of whom manage to live very successfully despite substantial alterations to their brain structure.

In some cases, water on the brain is congenital, caused by defects in the structure of the brain which impair the circulation and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid. Other cases are acquired, caused by damage to the brain such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury. In both cases, the buildup of fluid can be clearly seen in imaging studies of the brain, and sequential studies can be used to determine how rapidly the buildup is occurring.

Ad

When someone has the form of water on the brain known as communicating hydrocephalus, the cerebrospinal fluid can circulate successfully between the ventricles of the brain, but it cannot drain properly. In noncommunicating hydrocephalus, the circulation of the fluid is blocked. As the brain keeps producing its daily complement of cerebrospinal fluid, the water on the brain starts to cause neurological problems because it has no escape route.

In children, the earliest sign of hydrocephalus can sometimes be an expansion in head size, caused by the skull's increased growth to accommodate the larger volume of the brain and cerebrospinal fluid. Water on the brain can also cause symptoms like vomiting, nausea, vision problems, seizures, sleepiness, and developmental delays. When these symptoms present in a patient, a doctor can order a medical imaging study to look at the brain and learn more about what is causing the patient's symptoms.

It is not possible to cure water on the brain, but the condition can be treated. Treatment involves inserting a shunt into the brain to provide a drainage method. The shunt is a flexible plastic tube which drains to another portion of the body which can reabsorb and eventually express the cerebrospinal fluid. Placing a shunt must be done with care to avoid causing brain damage, and the shunt needs to be monitored to confirm that it is draining properly.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon153717
Post 4

I'm a person who lives with hydrocephalus and I live a completely normal life.

Denha
Post 3

@recapitulate, from what I know of the subject, the condition you're describing is something called "water intoxication", or hyponatremia. That condition does come from drinking too much water, an amount which varies based on a person's age, size, et cetera; it can happen to a dehydrated person who drinks too much water without electrolytes as well as anyone who drinks too much water. However it happens, it is a one-time occurrence that can lead to death similar to drowning in fresh water.

Hydrocephalus, on the other hand, is an ongoing condition which could lead to death, but can also be treated and lived with.

recapitulate
Post 2

I have heard before that a person can drink too much water and thus drown, but I hadn't heard of hydrocephalus/ "water on the brain". I'm curious, are these two related or capable of causing one another, or are they just slightly similar conditions?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email