Understanding Hydrocephalus

The Greek words ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘cephalus’ meaning head are combined to form ‘hydrocephalus’ which can be loosely translated to ‘water in the head’. The medical definition of hydrocephalus states that it is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain which enlarges the head and sometimes causes brain damage.

Most of those diagnosed with this condition find that their attention, concentration, gait, balance, personality and bladder control are affected. Some sufferers develop painful headaches when leaning forward. It takes a major toll on the enjoyment of activities such as gardening, reading, sports and even everyday living.

More and more of those suffering from hydrocephalus are being referred for exercise physiology to assist with their coordination, balance and functional strength. Any amount of moderate intensity exercise has been shown to immediately increase the vascular endothelial growth factor in the cerebral cortex – a growth factor that is demonstrated to be part of the system that stimulates the production of new blood cells.
Physical therapy targeting balance and coordination will assist in reducing the risk and severity of falls which will reduce future injuries. A carefully structured exercise programme that is individually tailored has been shown to improve balance, strength, coordination, functionality and quality of life of an individual diagnosed with hydrocephalus.

Early diagnosis and early treatment are vital for those with hydrocephalus to allow greater success of treatment and minimal complications. As normal pressure hydrocephalus gets worse over time without treatment we want to aim to give the most effective treatment as early as possible to allow the greatest quality of life.


Emily Tann | B.Sc. – Exercise, Sports and Rehabilitation | Grad. Dip in Clinical Exercise Physiology |

Exercise Consultant/ Exercise Physiologist (ESSAM)

P: 9244 5580
M: 0499 909 911
F: 92445582

Yang, J., Shanahan, K. J., Shriver, L. P., Luciano, M. G (2016) Exercise-induced changes of cerebrospinal fluid vascular endothelial growth factor in adult chronic hydrocephalus patients. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience (24) pages 52-56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jocn.2015.08.019

Shprecher, D., Schwalb, J. & Kurlan, R. C (2008). Normal pressure hydrocephalus: Diagnosis and treatment. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11910-008-0058-2