Brain, Nervous System and Mental Conditions

Hydrocephalus Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

Symptoms of hydrocephalus differ by age.

In babies, some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Head growth that is larger than normal
  • Bulging "soft spots" (fontanelles) on your baby's head that may be soft or firm
  • Wide spots between the flat bones of the skull (splayed sutures)
  • Eyes that seem to look down all the time (sunsetting eyes). The white part of the eye can be seen above the colored part. The colored part is partly covered by the lower eyelid. This gives your baby a surprised look.
  • Delayed development
  • Poor eating
  • High-pitched cry
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability

In children with hydrocephalus, common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low energy and sleepiness
  • Less ability to understand (lowered cognition)
  • Memory problems
  • Vision changes

Hydrocephalus Diagnosis

Doctors will examine your child, looking for signs of hydrocephalus. Doctors also use imaging tests to see signs of hydrocephalus. These tests include:

  • Ultrasound  
  • CT (computed tomography) scan  
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)  
  • 3-D imaging

At Seattle Children's we use methods, such as low-dose CT scans and rapid-sequence MRI, that reduce the amount of radiation your child is exposed to.