In some cases, the symptoms and signs of traumatic brain injuries can be so subtle that they get ignored or dismissed. For days and weeks following an injury, people may feel and look fine. If you play a sport or perform a job that puts you at risk of a brain injury, it is important to understand what some of the symptoms and signs may be. Below are some of the common symptoms that may appear suddenly within the first 24 hours after getting injured. Oftentimes, symptoms will get worse in the days following and treatment should be sought by a medical professional in an emergency room.
Common Symptoms and Signs of Traumatic Brain Injuries
The symptoms a person may get from a traumatic brain injury can range widely and involve physical, sensory and mental or cognitive issues.
1. Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
• Vomiting or nausea.
• Loss of consciousness that may last up to a few minutes or end in a few seconds.
• Problems with speaking.
• Speech problems.
• Severe headaches.
• A feeling of being confused, dazed or disoriented.
• Difficulty falling asleep.
• Drowsiness or fatigue.
• Loss of balance or severe dizziness.
• Sensory problems that include ringing in the ears, blurred vision, changes in smell and a bad taste in your mouth.
• Sensitivity to sounds and lights.
• Mental or cognitive symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, changes in mood or feelings of anxiousness or depression.
2. Moderate and Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
• Losing consciousness for several minutes or hours.
• Headaches that are persistent or worsen over time.
• Repeated bouts of nausea or vomiting.
• Seizures or convulsions.
• One or both pupils dilating.
• Inability to wake up from sleep.
• Clear fluids draining out of the ears or nose.
• Numbness or weakness in the toes or fingers.
• Loss of coordination.
• Mental or cognitive symptoms can include profound confusion, slurred speech, unusual behaviors and falling into a coma.
3. Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms in Children
Infants and younger children with traumatic brain injuries will not be able to communicate sensory problems such as headaches, confusion and other symptoms. Below are some symptoms an adult may observe in a child with a traumatic brain injury.
• Easily upset or unusual irritability.
• Changes in nursing or eating habits.
• Changes to their ability to pay attention.
• Inability to be consoled or persistent crying fits.
• Sleep habit changes.
• Depression or sadness.
• Loss of interest in activities or favorite toys.
Complications of Traumatic Brain Injuries
1. Altered Consciousness Problems
•Comas- One complication a traumatic brain injury may cause is a coma. When a person enters a coma, they are unaware and unconscious of anything happening around them. After days or weeks in a coma, people can emerge or enter into a vegetative state.
•Vegetative State- When a person enters a vegetative state, it is often due to damage throughout the brain. For some, a vegetative state can be permanent, but others may get better in time and resume a minimally conscious state of mind.
•Minimally Conscious State of Mind- This conscious state is a condition where some people may be aware of their environment or themselves. Oftentimes, this is the transition from a person being in a coma or vegetative state to recovery.
•Brain Death- When there is no activity measurable in an injury patient’s brain stem or brain, this is referred to as brain death. This is considered an irreversible condition and removal of breathing devices often end a patient’s life due to heart failure.
2. Physical Complications
•Infections- Fractures to the skull and the protective tissues around the brain can lead to issues such as bacteria getting in and causing infections.
•Seizures- Many people who suffered from a traumatic brain injury will develop seizures. Recurrent episodes of seizures are often called post-traumatic epilepsy.
•Vertigo- Another complication is vertigo, and it is a condition that causes dizziness and loss of balance.
•Hydrocephalus- Hydrocephalus is when there is fluid buildup in the brain that increases swelling and pressure around it. It may also cause blood vessel damage that can lead to blood clots, stroke or other issues.
How to Treat and Deal with Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are typically emergencies and need to be seen by a doctor right away. Your doctor will often perform an MRI or CT scan of your brain to see the extent of the injuries. Mild traumatic brain injuries will often require no treatment except resting and mild pain relievers to treat your headaches. Ideally, it is best for a person with a brain injury to be monitored before they’re cleared by the doctor to resume their normal activities.
Severe traumatic brain injuries require the use of medications, rehabilitation or surgery due to the mental and physical complications resulting from the damage to the brain. It is often in a person’s best interest to seek support to help cope with their injuries by joining support groups, avoiding distractions and seeing a therapist.