Fluid on the brain--also referred to as water on the brain or, more formally, hyrdocephalus--is a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment. While all of us have a natural amount of cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, surrounding our brains and spinal cords, having excess fluid can cause the spaces around the ventricles in the brain to widen. When this happens, additional pressure is put on the tissues of the brain and can cause considerable damage.
Doctors and scientists do not completely understand hydrocephalus. They do know of a handful of causes, though this list is not all-inclusive, as there seems to be several other unidentified causes.
Inherited Genetic Abnormalities
Fluid on the brain can be caused by a genetic imbalance. An example is a condition known as aqueductal stenosis, where the narrow channel connecting two of the brain's ventricles becomes blocked. Because the fluid cannot pass through the ducts, it becomes backed up and levels of CSF around the brain increase.
Scientists have determined that there are a few developmental disorders that increase the risk of an individual developing hydrocephalus. These include spina bifida, encephalocele, and other neurologically related diseases that impact the brain, spine and cerebrospinal fluid.
There are several diseases that can attack the cerebrospinal fluid. Meningitis is most likely to cause fluid on the brain.
Traumatic Head Injuries
Traumatic head injuries, such as those caused by accidents, and concussions may cause not only subarachnoid hemmorhaging but hydrocephalus as well. These injuries usually damage the ventricles and make it impossible for the CSF to leave the area surrounding the brain.
Treating Fluid on the Brain
The treatments for fluid on the brain will differ from person to person depending on the cause. The most common treatment is the surgical insertion of a shunt that allows the CSF to flow to a different area of the body and become absorbed by the circulatory system.
In very rare cases, doctors can use a small tool to make a hole in the ventricle so that the fluid can bypass whatever is causing the blockage. This treatment is not feasible for most people suffering from hydrocephalus.