Macrocephaly is a condition in which a child's head is larger than normal. If the circumference of the head is more than two standard deviations above the average for children of a similar race and age, the child will be diagnosed with macrocephaly. There are a number of causes for this condition, which is not curable, because it involves skeletal abnormalities. Once the skull has achieved an unusually large size, it cannot be shrunk back down.
Also known as macrocephalia or megalocephaly, macrocephaly is commonly caused by an enlarged brain or by a buildup of fluid in the skull. Both conditions force the skull to grow larger to accommodate an increased volume. In the case of an enlarged brain, no treatment can be recommended, but fluid in the brain can be drained off with a shunt. Since the skull of a child is still growing, draining fluid early may slow the growth, allowing the child's head to achieve a normal size, or it may reduce the severity of the macrocephaly.
Another cause for macrocephaly is a chronic subdural hematoma, in which blood on the brain causes the skull to grow to accommodate extra fluid. This condition can be very serious. All of the above causes of macrocephaly can lead to developmental delays, including movement disorders, intellectual delays, and seizures. For this reason, when an unusually large head is identified, care is taken to diagnose it properly to ensure that everything possible is being done for the patient.
Macrocephaly can also be benign in nature. Benign or familial macrocephaly has no associated problems. Some people, in other words, just have big heads. This condition is also linked with some genetic conditions which can cause a variety of medical problems which include abnormalities in skull development. These conditions may be diagnosed during the pregnancy or after the birth with observation, tests, or medical imaging studies which can identify abnormalities.
In the case of benign macrocephaly, parents don't need to do anything special to meet the needs of their child. Macrocephaly which is related to another medical problem may require more monitoring and treatment, including occupational therapy to help children with movement disorders and treatment of the complications associated with many genetic disorders which lead to abnormal head size. It is important for parents of children with genetic abnormalities to be outspoken advocates for their children; every condition manifests slightly differently, and proactive care can make a big difference in quality of life, future health, and independence.