Traumatic brain injury: causes and effects

The Brain Injury Association of America reports that 2.5 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury every year. California residents who have suffered a TBI in a fall or a car crash know how devastating the consequences can be. It is important to remember that no two brain injuries are alike; TBI symptoms and effects therefore can vary from person to person, often greatly so.

By far the main cause of traumatic brain injury is a fall. Falls account for 40.5 percent of all TBIs. Traffic accidents account for another 14.3 percent, and 10.7 percent are caused by assaults. The consequences of receiving a traumatic brain injury initially are unpredictable since they depend on which part(s) of the brain are injured, how severely they are injured, and what surface or object came into contact with the head. Suffering a concussion while playing football and wearing a helmet is considerably different from falling on a sidewalk or slippery floor or receiving a penetrating head injury from flying glass and other debris inside a crashing car.

The Mayo Clinic states that the symptoms of a mild brain injury may be immediate or may take days or weeks to appear. Symptoms can be physical, including headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and difficulty sleeping; cognitive or mental, including mood changes or swings, feelings of anxiety or depression, and problems with memory or concentration; and/or sensory, including blurred vision, light sensitivity, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), or having a bad taste in the mouth.

More severe TBIs can lead to loss of coordination, slurred speech, profound confusion, convulsions or seizures, even coma. In addition, an injured brain can change the way a person moves, thinks, feels, acts, and regulates his or her bodily functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, and bowel and bladder control. Receiving a brain injury also puts people at increased risk for developing degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.

All brain injuries, even those perceived to be mild, are serious and require prompt medical attention. A doctor needs to quickly assess and diagnose the damage so that treatment can begin immediately. The consequences of untreated TBI can quickly worsen.

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