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The symptoms of hydrocephalus depend on the cause of the blockage, the person's age, and how much brain tissue has been damaged by the swelling.
In infants with hydrocephalus, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up in the central nervous system, causing the fontanelle (soft spot) to bulge and the head to expand. Early symptoms may also include irritability, sunsetting eyes (eyes that appear to be pushed downward) and vomiting. Symptoms that occur later in the disease may include decreased mental function, difficulty feeding, excessive sleepiness and loss of bladder control.
In infants (i.e. – persons less than one year of age) the signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus are:
- Rapid increase in head circumference
- Unusually large head
- Downward deviation of the eyes known as “sun-setting”
Because the infant’s skull the sutures or fibrous joints that connect the bones of the skull and the fontanels have not closed. Therefore the infant’s skull can expand to accommodate the accumulating cerebral-spinal fluid without signs of increased intercranial pressure. Thus a rapid increase in head circumference and bulging fontanel’s are often the first signs of hydrocephalus in infants.
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