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Hydrocephalus is when something gets blocked up in your brain or spine and stops fluid from draining.

What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has hydrocephalus?

Siblings can have very good relationships with their brothers and sisters who have hydrocephalus. However, siblings may also feel worried when their brothers and sisters have to spend time in hospital because they need operations. They might miss spending time with their parent, even though they understand that their brothers and sisters need lots of extra attention.

What causes hydrocephalus?

There are lots of things that can cause hydrocephalus. Some people are born with it. For example, most babies with spina bifida also have hydrocephalus because their spine hasn’t grown properly. Sometimes a bad accident can damage the spine or parts of the brain and cause a block. Also some illnesses can affect the brain. Meningitis is the most common of these and it can cause hydrocephalus. Brain tumours (cancer) can also cause it.

What does it mean?

If hydrocephalus is not treated it will press on parts of the brain, and cause a nasty headache, sickness, blurred sight and lots of other things. It can damage parts of the brain. In a baby it will make the head grow and grow, like a balloon being blown up.

If someone is born with hydrocephalus, some damage to the brain may have already happened before they were born. They may have a learning disability.

What treatment is there?

The usual treatment is to have an operation to put in a shunt. This is a tube which has one end in the brain and the other end somewhere in the body. The whole tube is inside the body so it can’t get damaged or pulled out.

Once the shunt is in place it usually stops any more damage being done to the brain. But it won’t cure any damage that has already been done.