It’s estimated that 5.3 million Americans live with a traumatic brain injury. Despite this, many of these injuries are left undiagnosed and untreated. This article discusses the types of traumatic brain injuries and the associated symptoms and treatment. Traumatic brain injuries can be difficult to overcome, but with effective treatment and early care, recovery is possible.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Any external force that damages the brain can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries are usually associated with violent acts. However, many people receive brain injuries from everyday events, such as driving, playing sports, and even falling.
TBI includes closed brain injuries, damage caused by a traumatic force that impacts the exterior of the brain, or an open wound, a force that fractures the skull and causes tissue to impact with the brain. A traumatic brain injury can be mild or severe, and cause cognitive, physical, emotional, and behavioral impairments. Furthermore, the most common traumatic brain injuries are concussions, contusions, penetrating, and diffuse axonal.
A concussion is the mildest form of TBI. It occurs when the brain bounces around in the skull, causing mild impairment and temporary vulnerability to more extensive brain damage. This type of injury is caused by closed trauma, such as blunt force, falling, and whiplash from car accidents.
Most symptoms include dazed consciousness, dizziness, headaches, slurred speech, and brief loss of consciousness. Additional symptoms can emerge soon after the trauma takes place, such as fever, persistent headaches, and impaired cognitive abilities, like decreased concentration.
A contusion can be mild or severe and involves bruising or bleeding of the brain. Most injuries are caused by closed trauma from car accidents or falling. Moreover, when the force of the injury is very severe, it may cause a coup-contrecoup injury. This means that the brain is injured at the site of impact and the opposite side where the brain bounces off the skull.
Initial symptoms are similar to a concussion, such as headaches, fatigue, and slightly impaired cognitive abilities. Symptoms may continue to grow if you leave the injury untreated. This will eventually lead to loss of consciousness, bizarre behaviors, and seizures.
#3. Diffuse Axonal Injury
Diffuse axonal injury is one of the most common brain injuries. It is very lethal. This injury is caused by severely shaking or rotating the head, causing sometimes irreparable nerve damage. Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of diffuse axonal injury and is almost always fatal for the child.
The main symptom of this injury is the loss of consciousness for long periods of time, often resulting in a coma. If the patient is awake, he/she may show signs of cognitive impairment, such as decreased motor functions, memory recall, perception, and may have trouble speaking.
#4. Penetrating Injury
Usually, foreign objects can cause penetrating injuries. They puncture the skull and damage brain tissue, such as gunshots and knife wounds. This injury leads to additional brain trauma, such as massive bleeding and anoxic brain injury.
Quickcare or ER
You should always see a doctor if you notice symptoms of a brain injury, especially an high-impact event has recently happened to you. Visit the ER if you notice these symptoms occur:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Slurred speech.
- Unusual behavior.
- Inability to speak.
- Unequally-sized pupils.
- Repeating questions
Diagnosing a Traumatic Brain Injury
What Will Your Doctor Ask?
Your doctor will ask if you’ve lost consciousness recently, have had any strange behaviors, memory impairment, or difficulty speaking. He/she will ask if you’ve been involved in any events that may have caused trauma, such as sports, accidents, falls, or domestic violence. You will need to go into detail about your symptoms, such as the onset and frequency.
What Will Your Doctor Look For?
He/she will look for visual impairments first, such as dilated or unequal pupils, obvious injuries, sensitivity to light, and motor function deficiencies.
CAT scans and MRIs are very common tests doctors perform to assess brain injuries. Diffuse axonal injuries are difficult to pick up with these tests so that the doctor may order an electroencephalogram (EEG).
What Is Your Doctor Thinking?
Your doctor will try to rule out viral infections that cause neurological issues. Also, the images should reveal the extent of the brain damage. Concussions can be difficult to diagnose through scans, so your doctor may have to rely on your symptoms and behavior to diagnose you. The specialist may diagnose you based on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which rates brain injuries based on your verbal, motor, and eye-opening responses. It is important to keep in mind gender differences. With less neck muscle mass, women are at a greater risk for concussions.
Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury
One should treat mild TBI cases with sleep and plenty of fluids. You should avoid driving and pain relievers for at least 24 hours.
Severe brain injuries will require additional medical assistance. Penetrating injuries will always require surgery. Severe contusions may require surgery as well to control the bleeding or remove the bruised tissue.
Rehabilitation will be necessary for survivors of a diffuse axonal injury. Rehabilitation will focus on trying to repair abilities lost with the nerve damage, such as speech and motor functions.
How Long Will This Affect You?
The onset symptoms of a concussion last for a few hours to a couple of days. However, some severe concussions may take months to heal. Severe brain contusions and penetrating wounds usually take six months to a couple of years to recover fully.
Unfortunately, the majority of diffuse axonal injury patients do not have chances of recovering from their coma, while the remaining survivors are almost always permanently impaired.
It is reported that women take longer to recover from concussions. There is a greater chance to develop post-concussive syndrome.
Summing It Up
Prompt care is important for recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Concussions and contusions may be mild and can heal with time. However, some cases will require intensive treatment. One should always treat penetrating and diffuse axonal injuries with emergency care before the likelihood of recovery diminishes. If you or your loved one displays symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, do not hesitate to seek out medical treatment.
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