A concussion is a common type of brain injury most often caused by a direct blow to the head, causing temporary brain malfunction that can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the severity of the condition. When the head is hit unexpectedly, the brain can move and hit the skull, affecting memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and coordination.
Patients with a concussion may experience:
These symptoms can vary depending on the individual patient, and can last for days or even weeks. Some people may not even be aware that they have a concussion, or may not develop symptoms until several hours or days after the injury.
Diagnosing a concussion is a straightforward procedure, but doctors are more concerned with the severity of the condition and if any internal bleeding or swelling has occurred. A series of tests may be performed to evaluate the patient's memory, vision, hearing and balance.
Treatment for a concussion usually focuses on relieving symptoms and allowing patients to return to their regular activities through rest and Tylenol. It is important to make sure you are fully recovered before resuming sports and other physical activity, as you are at a higher risk of developing a second concussion at this time. You can reduce your risk of a concussion by practicing safety at all times, including wearing a seatbelt in the car, wearing a helmet during certain activities and wearing appropriate shoes to prevent falls.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) involves a severe blow or injury to the head that results in brain damage. While not all head injuries result in brain damage, those that do can bruise the brain, tear nerve fibers or cause internal bleeding. Most TBIs occur as a result of a fall, motor vehicle accident, direct blow or assault.
The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may be subtle, and may not appear until days or weeks after the injury has occurred. Some of the most common symptoms of a TBI include:
It is important for patients to seek medical attention if these symptoms become apparent so that prompt treatment can be performed and permanent damage can be minimized.
Treatment for a traumatic brain injury depends on the severity of the injury, but may simply involving resting and taking over-the-counter pain relievers to treat mild symptoms. Patients with more severe injuries may require emergency care to minimize the risk of permanent brain damage. Pressure in the brain tends to increase after a brain injury, which can cause damage as certain structures expand within a confined space.
Depending on the extent of your injury, your doctor may prescribe medications such as diuretics, anti-seizure drugs or coma-inducing drugs to relieve pressure on the brain and allow swelling to reduce. Surgery may be required in some cases to remove blood clots trapped in the skull, repair skull fractures or, in severe cases, create an opening in the skull to relieve pressure when all other methods have failed.
Most patients will require rehabilitation after a traumatic brain injury, which may include learning how to walk or talk again, as well as regaining other lost skills. Rehabilitation aims to help patients restore their abilities to function at home and in their community.
In many cases, significant brain damage cannot be reversed and will dramatically affect a person's life. A strong support system can help patients cope with these changes physically, cognitively and emotionally.