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Hydrocephalus and Cannabis

Treating Hydrocephalus with Cannabis

Cannabis and Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus literally means “water in the brain,” and describes a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up inside the ventricles of the brain and puts pressure on the surrounding tissue. Ventricles are cavities within the gray matter that hold CSF and form a vital part of the brain’s ability to remove toxins and maintain the health of the organ.

The excess CSF within the ventricles increases their overall size and puts pressure on the brain. The overpressure can cause brain damage, strokes and a wide range of cognitive impairments, depending on where the pressure is concentrated. The most commonly reported outward symptoms of hydrocephalus in infants include an overly large head or a rapid increase in overall head size, as well as bulging or sensitive spots on the head. Internally, hydrocephalus commonly causes vomiting, seizures, slow development and low responsiveness to stimuli. Among adults, the most common symptoms of hydrocephalus are headaches, blurred vision, poor balance, nausea, vomiting and memory loss. There are many different kinds of hydrocephalus: some are congenital, some are the result of a birth defect, while others are caused by stroke or a traumatic brain injury. Hydrocephalus can develop at any age, although it is more commonly reported among infants and the elderly.

There are a range of surgical treatments which can help remove excess CSF and relieve the cranial pressure associated with hydrocephalus. Managing the functional impairments caused by hydrocephalus poses a much greater challenge for patients and health professionals, mostly due to the individual and often unique nature of such symptoms. The most typical surgical treatment to alleviate the overpressure caused by hydrocephalus is the installation of a “shunt” system into the brain, which diverts excess CSF away from the ventricles and out of the brain. Although surgical treatments can prevent hydrocephalus from becoming a catastrophic condition, alleviating the long-term symptoms of this disease have posed severe challenges. Symptoms differ greatly between patients, but the most commonly reported are difficult walking or standing, progressive mental impairment, lethargy, personality changes and memory loss.

Medical marijuana may be a suitable palliative treatment for hydrocephalus, able to treat the secondary and tertiary symptoms of the condition. Seizures, nausea, sleep apnea, headaches and manic attacks all fall under the wide range of symptoms that medical cannabis has proven effective in treating. Left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal. Even with surgery and the installation of a CSF shunt, symptoms can persist for many years. Recovery is possible, but can be slow and difficult for sufferers of hydrocephalus and their families. Medical marijuana can help alleviate many of these symptoms and aid a faster recovery and return to normal functioning. In Illinois, dispensaries offer a wide selection of cannabis strains tailored to treat different symptoms. The highly unique nature of many symptoms associated with hydrocephalus means that one strain does not fit all, although patients, in conjunction with their doctors, can identify the most pressing symptoms and, with the help of an Illinois cannabis dispensary, find a strain that is suited for their symptom complex.

For more information visit the Hydrocephalus Association.

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