Traumatic Brain Injury: Symptoms and Causes
A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of some kind of violent impact to the head or body. Another cause of traumatic brain injuries is an object going through the brain, like a piece of skull that has shattered after an impact or a projectile like a bullet.
These types of injuries can range from mild to serious, and the resulting damage to the brain may only be temporary or have more long lasting complications or death.
Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury
One of the more concerning parts of suffering any head injury or traumatic brain injury are the potential lingering effects. Often signs and symptoms appear immediately after the cause of the traumatic brain injury, but some symptoms may only appear days or weeks later.
So it’s good to stay vigilant when observing or caring for someone who has gone through a head injury, and pay attention to any potential oncoming symptoms.
A few of the physical symptoms of a more mild injury to the brain are:
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Trouble with speech
- Blurred vision or ringing in the ears
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds
- Mood changes
- Depressions or anxiety
- Changes in sleep patterns
Depending on the severity different symptoms may occur. Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can cause symptoms to appear within the first few hours to days after the injury happens. Some of these symptoms may include:
- Loss of consciousness for minutes to hours
- Long lasting or worsening headache
- Dilation of the pupils
- Clear fluid from the nose or ears
- Numbness in the fingers and toes
- Slurred speech
When should you see a doctor for a traumatic brain injury?
If you, your child, or anyone you know has suffered a blow to the head or body that concerns you, or causes any of the symptoms above you should seek medical care. A doctor can either immediately begin proper steps in care for the head injury, or rule out potential complications. Even a mild injury to the head should be addressed promptly and should be seen by a doctor as quickly as possible.
Common Causes of a Head Injury
Receiving a blow to the head or body that can reverberate through the brain will cause injury. However, the amount of damage depends on how the injury occurred and the force of the blow. There are many common events that cause these types of injuries and they include:
- Falling is a primary cause of head injury, whether it be a fall from bed, a ladder, stairs or in the shower. This is the most common cause of traumatic brain injury, mostly in older adults and young children.
- Car accidents and collisions are another leading cause of brain injury, which include cars colliding with motorcycles or bicycles, and even pedestrians. The impact in these types of accidents can cause many kinds of injury to the body, including the spine and brain.
- Sports injuries is another common cause of injury to the head. Many sports have repeated impacts to the body or head, including soccer, boxing, football, baseball, skateboarding, hockey and many other extreme sports.
Cognitive Issues after a Traumatic Brain Injury
After receiving a brain injury there may be cognitive changes that are noticeable such as being more difficult to focus, or taking long to process your thoughts. There are many different skills that maybe diminished for a period of time after a brain injury such as:
- Problem solving
- Decision making
Communication Issues after a Head Injury
Communication and language issues are very common after head or bodily impacts. These can be frustrating for the person who suffered a head injury, and/or family, friends and care givers for the person. Understanding that these happen can help with the recovery process.
People with communication issues may have difficulty understanding speech or writing, and speaking or writing themselves. They can have trouble participating in conversations, such as turn taking or topic selection. Some of the common things we use every day such as change sin tone, pitch, or emphasis to express emotions might be difficult for someone with a brain injury. Other subtle cues of communication like nonverbal signals can be a challenge as well.
Preventing Harm to the Brain through Injury
Preventing and reducing risks of brain injury are an important part of every day life, and there are simple steps you can take to help with these risk factors. In a moving vehicle there are many reasons to wear a seat belt, one being prevention of brain injury. Children should always sit in the back seat of a car in a child safety or booster seat that’s correct for their size and weight. You should also make sure your airbags are current and ready in case of any kind of impact.
Alcohol and drug use can also increase the risk of head injury as it may affect balance, and impair the ability of the user to operate all kinds of vehicles.
Helmets can also be life saving when riding a bicycle, skateboard, motorcycle, or participating in any kind of snow sport. You should also wear the appropriate protective gear while playing any contact sports, or riding a horse.
Prevention of Head Injury in Older Adults
To help older adults avoid falls around the house you can add many helpful additions to the home. Installing handrails in bathrooms is essential, as well as nonslip mats in the bathtub or shower. Area rugs can be a hazard, as well as any clutter around the stairs or frequently used floor areas. Handrails on the side of a staircase is also critical, as well as keeping areas well lit, particularly around stairs.
There are many things you can do to help prevent head injuries, and it’s important to take proper precautions as a traumatic brain injury can be life changing. If you, or someone you know does suffer a head injury there are still many options for treatment and recovery. Consult with a specialist doctor today to ensure the safety of yourself or your loved ones. Time is an important factor with brain injuries, so don’t wait if you suspect there could be any symptoms of such an injury.