5 Signs of Hydrocephalus in Adults 

Apr 19, 2022

Walking abnormalities, headaches, difficulty maintaining balance, frequent urge to micturate, memory loss, vision problems! Does this sound like you? If it does, you might be suffering from Hydrocephalus. It is completely normal to feel anxious. However, this anxiety might lead you to avoid consulting a doctor or having the timely treatment that you need right now! To make things more clear to you, here is a detailed description of all you need to know about signs of Hydrocephalus in adults.

What is Hydrocephalus and at what age does it occur?

Hydrocephalus is basically an accumulation of excess fluid in the ventricles of your brain known as Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It enlarges the ventricles and puts pressure on surrounding brain tissues causing memory loss, cognitive impairment, walking difficulties, and loss of reasoning ability.

Mostly it occurs in adults at the age of 60 or more. In adults, Hydrocephalus usually occurs secondary to some other brain conditions like any brain infection(meningitis), tumor, or trauma. It’s very difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it must get diagnosed timely to make the recovery possible. 

Signs of Hydrocephalus in Adults

Diagnosing hydrocephalus can be a little tricky as it shares common symptoms with other brain disorders like Alzheimer’s. We have put together a list of the 5 most common signs of Hydrocephalus in Adults.

1. Gait Problems

The first noticeable symptom of normal pressure hydrocephalus in adults is to experience difficulty walking. It becomes extremely difficult to take the first few steps when you want to start walking. It seems as if feet are glued to the ground. Some patients often describe it as if their feet are frozen. Specific features of gait disturbance in Hydrocephalus are wide-based gait patterns with outward rotated feet and diminished height of steps. That’s different from the gait of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease as they have a shuffling gait associated with rigidity. Similar symptoms are present in Alzheimer’s disease as well but an experienced doctor can tell the difference. As the Hydrocephalus progresses, you may become increasingly unsteady, lose your balance and be more likely to fall when turning around.

2. Urinary Problems

Changes in your gait and maintaining balance are often accompanied by urinary incontinence. There is mostly neurogenic disturbance of urination, especially as the way to the toilet is more difficult due to the presence of gait disturbance. At first, the patient suffers from increased micturition frequency, as the disease progresses urge incontinence usually follows. Fecal incontinence is rare and is normally seen in advanced stages.

3. Cognition Problems

The normal thinking process starts to slow down such as psychomotor slowing and impairment of attention, working memory, verbal fluency, and executive function. Changes in personality and behavior are also observed. The patient’s response rate becomes very slow. They fail to process the information and react to it appropriately.

A confused oldman staring outside the window with one hand on his head

4. Dementia

The dementia of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus can be similar to Alzheimer’s disease.  Hydrocephalus dementia involves confusion, short-term memory, forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, and lack of interest in daily life activities.

5. Headaches And Vision Problems

One of the major signs of Hydrocephalus in adults is a headache. It is worse in the morning because the fluid in your brain doesn’t drain while you are lying and the fluid may build up overnight. The headache is usually severe and is associated with vomiting and photophobia. It also makes it hard for the patients to get a sound sleep due to throbbing pain. With Hydrocephalus the nerves get weakened which causes the patient to experience double vision. 

Prompt Diagnosis and Early Treatment

A definitive diagnosis of this treatment could only be made through imaging studies like CT scan and MRI, gait analysis, lumbar puncture, and neurophysiology assessment.  Early diagnosis and treatment can have very favorable results.

Medications have no use in the treatment of Hydrocephalus. The definitive treatment widely accepted worldwide is the shunt system. It’s the placement of a shunt to drain the excess fluid from the brain via a silicon tube into other body cavities like the peritoneal cavity (the area surrounding abdominal organs) or in heart chambers where the fluid can be easily absorbed by the body. This shunt remains there throughout the life of the patient. Follow-up visits, diagnostic tests, and neurophysiological assessments are done from time to time to see if the shunt is working properly or not. Ensuring you have the proper shunt will also help alleviate headaches which can improve your sleep quality.

Recovery from shunt placement takes three to four days. Studies show that 50% to 80% of patients can expect an improvement in their symptoms in the first 2 years.

The prognosis of any surgery depends upon the patient's general health and stage of the disease. If Hydrocephalus is diagnosed and treated in the early stages, there is a good possibility of recovery.

Talk to A Neurosurgeon!

If you are not feeling like yourself due to symptoms like gait, abnormalities, reduced mental function, balance problems, headaches, vision problems, and urinary incontinence. You might be dealing with Hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus can come quickly or develop over time but in both cases, the condition doesn’t get better on its own.  

Considering making an appointment with a neurosurgeon? Contact the neurosurgeon at Southern California Brain and Spine Surgery today. Our board certified neurosurgeon will provide you with care, diagnostics and an appropriate management plan that will suit you.

For more information contact us through our website or reach us at (213)-369 4583 to one of our doctors now!