Every year, there are an estimated 2.5 million people who suffer from a traumatic brain injury in the U.S. alone. The unfortunate reality for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is that their traumatic event has changed them, sometimes permanently, in both physical and physiological ways. Traumatic brain injury symptoms can present after any impact to the head; these impacts can be from falls, being struck, or, more commonly, from car accidents or impacts sustained in high-contact sports.
There is a common misconception that traumatic brain injuries are only sustained from high impact to the body or head, but this isn’t always the case. Any event that causes the brain to abnormally and abruptly make contact with the inside of the skull can result in varying degrees of brain injury. The resulting damage taking place in the brain can have short-term and some long-term effects on the brain and body. Even a friendly game of low contact football could result in a TBI if the player sustained an impact to the skull or body. It’s important to stay vigilant whenever you or someone you know has been involved in any event where they suffered an impact to their head or body. Spotting TBI symptoms early can be pivotal in the treatment a patient can receive to help them heal and recover from their injury.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms – Halting the Progression of Neurological Damage
The most common type of traumatic brain injury presents as a concussion; an injury that leaves the brain unable to function normally. According to Johns Hopkins University, a concussion is most common in children, young adults, and older adults and can take anywhere from a few days to several months to recover from. While a concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury, it is often left undiagnosed and can impact a patient’s daily life in a big way.
Living with a traumatic brain injury can be devastating for not only the patient but their friends and loved ones, too. For some, changes in mood, headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms are temporary. In cases where the sufferer is healing from a mild concussion, the healing and recovery process can range from a few days to several weeks. For those who have suffered a more severe traumatic brain injury, symptoms can last for years, or even the rest of their lives.
Those living with a TBI go through not only physical changes that are out of their control, but the neurological processes affected by their injury encompass their behavior, speech, and even their relationships. The psychological effects of living with a traumatic brain injury are compounded by the new need to relearn how to walk, talk, and interact with the world around them.
Because so many mild TBIs go undiagnosed, it’s important to seek medical attention after any physical traumatic event. Some symptoms to be aware of when you or someone you know have suffered from any sort of impact that could result in concussion or other forms of TBIs are as follows:
- Sensitivity to light or sounds
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abrupt changes in sleep behavior and patterns
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling dazed, confused, or feeling as though your thinking is slowed
- Fatigue or feeling drowsy
- Disruption of speech, or slurred words
- Loss of balance
- Trouble remembering recent events
- Inability to empathize
- Aggressive behavior
There are studies that observe that access to immediate care and treatment options can help the brain recover and heal more quickly. Unfortunately, it has also been observed that cognitive decline can still be found in patients starting as early as 10 years after the injury occurred. It’s most important to note that all brains are different, and the trajectory of the symptoms and dysfunction seen in patients who have sustained a TBI are very different based on a variety of factors. Some of these factors include:
- Type or manner in which the injury was sustained
- Duration of time between injury and access to medical care
- Repeat injuries, such as those that may be sustained through physical sports
- Genetic predisposition
Helping a Loved One Living With a TBI
While helping your loved one on the path to recovery after a TBI, the challenges can be overwhelming. Understand that in some cases, your loved one is not only re-learning how to walk, but also regaining the ability todo things every day that we may take for granted. In more severe cases, learning how to tie their shoes or re-learning how to speak can be physically exhausting and emotionally devastating.
Depression, anxiety, apathy, and many more mental health challenges are hurdles that sufferers of TBIs must contend with on some level every day. Being unable to function at the level they once did can be daunting and emotionally draining. Just remember, the impact a traumatic event has on their ability to function both cognitively and physically is usually out of their control. Irritability in TBI patients is also a common emotional response, one that most patients aren’t able to identify coming from themselves. In many cases, they are unaware of their verbal and physical response to factors that may annoy them.
Being supportive, understanding, and forgiving can be helpful tools for those caring for or living with someone who has suffered from a traumatic brain injury. Encouraging them to complete tasks that help relearn skills they are struggling with can be frustrating, but in the end, being there to help them can do wonders for their mental state.
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