Although traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not one of the best known medical terms, the situation it describes is very common. TBI results from a hard blow to the head. Its symptoms can range from a mild loss of consciousness to permanent disability. Statistics from the USA show that almost one-third of injuries involve TBI. Thankfully in the majority of cases, the damage is relatively mild, but that does not imply that this injury is not a potentially dangerous problem; these same USA statistics show that TBI is a factor in approximately 50,000 deaths each year.
A light concussion is one of the most common TBI symptoms. Often the injured person is not knocked out by a fall, and if they are knocked out, it is only for half an hour or so. They might feel dizzy or disorientated, and their head feels sore. Usually, these symptoms appear right after the accident, and they do not normally last more than a few hours, or at the most a day or so, although in some cases these symptoms can continue for a few weeks.
Externally everything may look fine
If someone bangs their head and feels dizzy, it is easy to make the connection between the way they feel and what happened to them, but sometimes TBI symptoms appear with a delayed effect. In these instances, doctors, as well as patients, are challenged to make the right diagnosis. For example, nausea and headaches have so many possible causes it is not always immediately apparent that they are the results of a head injury sustained some time beforehand. The injured person might not make the connection, and since externally they appear to be perfectly fine their family and friends fail to recognize this health issue.
Symptoms to take note of in children
As a rule the younger the child, the more serious are the possible consequences of TBI. Parents and other family members should keep a close eye on an infant who suffered a head injury. Young children, in particular, are often unable to explain how they feel. If the child appears to be confused or very drowsy, if they cry continually or do not want to eat or nurse, they need be taken immediately to the emergency department of the local hospital for a thorough checkup. Only doctors and nurses have the tools to investigate if this is an injury that needs treatment or nothing to be concerned.
Sometimes a few weeks after suffering a head injury a person may start to feel ill or even physically vomit. These symptoms suggest that the TBI they sustained might be on a more serious level than they first thought. However, it is also possible that nausea comes from an unrelated condition. It certainly makes senses not to delay getting a checkup to see if there is any internal damage and determine whatever medical treatment might be needed.
The connection between head injury and headaches is entirely understandable but making an exact diagnosis is a little more difficult. Some people suffer from headaches quite frequently, so they will not instantly make the link with TBI. There are also so many other complaints that have headaches as one of their symptoms. However, if their headache seems to be getting worse and obstinately refuses to respond to medications they must inform their doctor and get the appropriate checkup.
The fact that TBI can damage memory is a well-known medical fact. In the vast majority of cases, the loss of memory is short-term, and full memory soon returns, but in more severe cases there can be long-term damage. Therefore someone who hurts their head and then starts to find it harder to recall new information might be experiencing a symptom of TBI. If they find they suddenly cannot recognize people or places they must get emergency medical attention straight away.
Severe TBI Symptoms
In its most extreme manifestation, TBI can knock someone out for over 24 hours. If this happens, the likelihood that he or she has suffered long-lasting or even life-threatening injury is much greater. Some people may still make a full recovery and return to normal life, but this most severe form of TBI invariably requires a period of hospitalization and a succession of tests and perhaps operations.
Symptoms that may develop in later years
Even someone who makes a recovery from TBI they might still have to deal with some of its consequences later on in life. Much depends on the severity of their injury, but there is clear medical evidence that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia increases. At the moment there is little that can be done to prevent this happening but at least these people ought to understand they are now more likely than others to have to cope with a deterioration of their mental capacities in later years.
Impact on behavior
In addition to the physical impact of TBI it also sometimes affects behavior and emotions. In typical cases, a person becomes increasingly irritable and suffers from a lack of energy. They might find it hard to get a good night sleep or continue to feel tired after they wake up – all of this is likely to make them even more agitated. They could also experience difficulties maintaining concentration and appear a little confused at times. Also, sometimes they could find it hard to retain their balance. If any of these symptoms persist, they need to consult with a doctor.
Affects Hearing and Sight
The way TBI can affect hearing and sight is one of its most unpleasant effects. Typical symptoms include a blurriness of vision and a ringing sound in the ear. The injured person might also become unusually sensitive to sound and light. It is natural in these situations to become concerned about long-term health damage but in a relatively short time eyesight usually gets back to normal and the ringing noise disappear.