How is it treated?
Various factors can lead to hydrocephalus, including brain tumours and meningitis. In developing countries hydrocephalus can be related to, or exacerbated by poverty and lack of proper healthcare. A lack of folic acid in the mother's diet can lead to neural tube defects which occur very early in pregnancy, often before the mother is even aware she is pregnant. These defects can include spina bifida which causes hydrocephalus. There are an estimated 300,000 new cases of hydrocephalus in the developing world each year.
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What can be done to prevent it?
What is hydrocephalus?
What causes it?
Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid in the brain, which puts pressure on the brain and, if left untreated, can cause disability and death.
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In most cases, hydrocephalus cannot be cured. A simple operation to place a tube which drains the fluid trapped in the brain down to the abdomen (the tube is known as a 'shunt') can be performed to relieve the pressure and enable the patient to live a relatively normal life. Another procedure called an ETV, where a pathway is formed in the brain to drain the excess fluid, is also used to treat hydrocephalus. Due to a severe lack of neurosurgeons and poverty however, these relatively simple procedures are often not available to those in need which is why the death rate from hydrocephalus in the developing world is so high.
Training, education and funding are fundamental to the treatment of hydrocephalus: training more neurosurgeons to be able to carry out simple shunt procedures will enable more children and babies to be saved. Educating women in the importance of including folic acid in the diet will reduce the number of neural tube defect occurring in the womb early in pregnancy. Educating parents to assess their children for early signs of hydrocephalus will also reduce the number of fatalities as many children who are terminal have been brought in for treatment when it is far too late. And of course, funding is desperately needed in such poverty-stricken countries to ensure all of this happens.