How I Manage Headaches from Hydrocephalus

By Sarah Lynn

I get more headaches than most people. The reason for that is because I have a condition called hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid, also called CSF, around the brain. The purpose of CSF is to protect the brain and spinal cord, but when there is too much fluid it can be dangerous.

So how is this condition treated? The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is to insert a tube called a shunt to drain excess fluid from the head to another place where the body can remove it naturally. Getting a hydrocephalus diagnosis can be frustrating because you typically get more headaches than the average person does.


(Above: Diagram showing normal development, and on the right, presence of hydrocephalus. This is evident by the enlarged ventricle whereas as normal brain does not have this enlargement. Photo via EMSWorld.)

Below I explain some of the things I do to manage my headaches so I don’t get as many.

1. Hydration.

If you get dehydrated you will probably get a headache. How do you avoid this problem? Make sure you drink enough water! Drinking soda is not the same type of hydration as drinking water so if you drink a lot of soda but no water and get a lot of headaches, that could be the reason for your headaches. If you don’t drink water because you want something that is flavored, you can either buy flavored water or add some fruit to your water to give it some flavor.

2. Essential Oils.

There are a lot of benefits to essential oils. There are a few essential oils that you can buy that may help your headaches. Peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary are a few essential oils that have been known to help headaches.

Depending on what type of headache you have will determine what kind of essential oil will work best for you. Some people apply essential oils directly on their skin but I personally don’t do that. I use a diffuser and put the oils inside of it.

3. Stress Reduction.

Do you go to work and immediately get a headache but then it goes away as soon as you leave work? You probably have a stress or tension headache. The only way to get rid of these types of headaches is to de-stress.

Go get a massage or do something else that you would enjoy to make you forget about whatever it is that is stressing you out. If your job is making you stressed to the point that it is putting unnecessary tension in your body, you either need to talk to your boss about it or find a new job.

4. Nutrition.

I cannot tell you how many people I have talked to who skip meals and then complain they have a headache. The reason you have a headache is that you don’t have proper nutrition when you are skipping meals. If you want to avoid a hunger headache, you need to get on regular eating schedules.

Having hydrocephalus can be frustrating sometimes because I am doing everything I am supposed to and I still get severe headaches and don’t always know why. I have had headaches last for a week or two and there was nothing I could do to make it go away. There is medicine doctors can prescribe that will make headaches less frequent for those of us with hydrocephalus, but it won’t prevent them totally.

If you have any questions about how I manage my headaches with hydrocephalus, please leave them in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “How I Manage Headaches from Hydrocephalus

  1. Missy Dillon says:

    My daughter is 15 and has had her VP shunt since she was 9 months old. She seems to get the headaches and pressure in her head with the change of the season. Do you experience the feeling of pressure in your head at all or any changes with the weather changes? How do you manage the pressure? I give her ibuprofen but it doesn’t work to elevate the pressure. I don’t know what to do for her!


  2. amber says:

    my dad has normal pressure hydrocephalus and has had a LP shunt and it has not worked. he even got the shunt done again because he got a scan and the neurosurgeon said that I wasn’t positioned right. he has tried a lot of different painkillers but none of them seem to relieve his headaches. he has his headaches everyday all day. the consultant doesn’t know what to do with him. is there any suggestions that could help relieve his headaches. that would be much appreciated.


  3. Andrea says:

    My 15 year old daughter had a VP shunt fitted when she was 8. She has had numerous shunt revisions and no headaches in between surgery. She only got headaches when there was a problem with the shunt and they were relieved by the surgery. After the latest revision on 12th November she has had a constant 24/7 headache that has progressively become intolerable and she can’t get any relief. She is miserable and the surgeon doesn’t understand why the headache is so severe as her shunt appears to be working.


  4. Maria says:

    I have an arachnoid cyst I have suffered intrcranial pressure since I was 19 on and of I’m 48 my neurosurgeon said I had a little bit of hydrocephalus also. I will be getting the cyst fenestration what they call and a cystoperionatal shunt. I’m scared my headaches are unbearable every day now I just want to know will the shunt help my headaches?


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