Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain. Every year, millions of people in the U.S. suffer brain injuries. More than half are bad enough that people must go to the hospital. The worst injuries can lead to permanent brain damage or death. Half of all TBIs are from motor vehicle accidents. Military personnel in combat zones are also at risk.
Symptoms of a TBI may not appear until days or weeks following the injury. A concussion is the mildest type. It can cause a headache or neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and tiredness.
People with a moderate or severe TBI may have those, plus other symptoms:
- A headache that gets worse or does not go away
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- Inability to awaken from sleep
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the arms and legs
- Dilated eye pupils
Health care professionals use a neurological exam and imaging tests to assess TBI. Serious traumatic brain injuries need emergency treatment. Treatment and outcome depend on how severe the injury is. TBI can cause a wide range of changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, or emotions. TBI can be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. People with severe injuries usually need rehabilitation.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
What is PCS?
Post-concussion syndrome is a complex disorder in which various symptoms — such as headaches and dizziness — last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion.
Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that usually happens after a blow to the head. It can also occur with violent shaking and movement of the head or body. You don’t have to lose consciousness to get a concussion or post-concussion syndrome. In fact, the risk of post-concussion syndrome doesn’t appear to be associated with the severity of the initial injury.
In most people, symptoms occur within the first seven to 10 days and go away within three months. Sometimes, they can persist for a year or more.
The goal of treatment after concussion is to effectively manage your symptoms.
Post-concussion symptoms include:
– Loss of concentration and memory
– Ringing in the ears
– Blurry vision
– Noise and light sensitivity
– Rarely, decreases in taste and smell
Headaches Dizziness Fatigue Irritability Anxiety Insomnia Loss of concentration and memory Ringing in the ears Blurry vision Noise and light sensitivity Rarely, decreases in taste and smell
Post-concussion headaches can vary and may feel like tension-type headaches or migraines. Most often, they are tension-type headaches. These may be associated with a neck injury that happened at the same time as the head injury.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if you experience a head injury severe enough to cause confusion or amnesia — even if you never lost consciousness.
If a concussion occurs while you’re playing a sport, don’t go back in the game. Seek medical attention so that you don’t risk worsening your injury.
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Some experts believe post-concussion symptoms are caused by structural damage to the brain or disruption of the messaging system within the nerves, caused by the impact that caused the concussion.
Others believe post-concussion symptoms are related to psychological factors, especially since the most common symptoms — headache, dizziness and sleep problems — are similar to those often experienced by people diagnosed with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
In many cases, both physiological effects of brain trauma and emotional reactions to these effects play a role in the development of symptoms.
Researchers haven’t determined why some people who’ve had concussions develop persistent post-concussion symptoms while others do not. There’s no proven connection between the severity of the injury and the likelihood of developing persistent post-concussion symptoms.
However, some research shows that certain factors are more common in people who develop post-concussion syndrome compared with those who don’t develop the syndrome. These factors include a history of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, significant life stressors, a poor social support system and lack of coping skills.
More research is still needed to better understand how and why post-concussion syndrome happens after some injuries and not others.
Risk factors: Risk factors for developing post-concussion syndrome include:
Age: Studies have found increasing age to be a risk factor for post-concussion syndrome.
Sex: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, but this may be because women are generally more likely to seek medical care.
Prevention: The only known way to prevent post-concussion syndrome is to avoid the head injury in the first place.