Brain injuries are more common than one might think. Every year approximately 1.5 million people in the United States alone suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Impact on families and caregivers can be a tremendous strain with a wide range of consequences.
The most common of brain injuries, also called head injuries, are concussions. A concussion is classified as a mild traumatic brain injury. Many times these go unnoticed or undocumented, which leaves the person with the injury without the benefits of rehabilitation or medical care.
A mild TBI also occurs from a blow or jolt to the head, damaging the brain enough that a person may have a brief change in mental status or a loss of consciousness. Severe TBIs may cause long periods of hours or weeks with loss of consciousness and can result in short term or long term disability.
Brain contusions are another type of common brain trauma. The simplest explanation for brain contusion is a bruise on the brain tissue, just like bruises that can happen with most other parts of the body. Causes of brain contusions and concussions are often the same – motor vehicle accident, sports injury, or slip and fall. The contusion is typically worse than a concussion because a contusion actually causes structural damage to the brain.
Another common injury to the head is the skull fracture. The skull is tough and resilient, but a significant blunt force trauma can cause a skull fracture. A skull fracture can cause numerous types of damage to the brain and often can be quite severe. Possible symptoms to skull fracture could be bruising behind the ears, confusion, convulsions, headache, slurred speech and vomiting.
There are approximately 5.3 million US citizens that currently live with brain injury disabilities, ranging from mild to severe. Gender and age seem to play significant roles in the likelihood of brain trauma. The incidence of brain trauma in men is double that of women and the most common ranges in age appear in two groups – adolescents (ages 15-24) and the elderly (75-years or older.)
Brain injuries have a wide range of consequences depending on the severity of the trauma. While a mild TBI can cause changes in areas of thinking, speech, physical functions and social behavior which can last a lifetime or just briefly. Often times people with mild TBI can resume activities they enjoyed prior to the brain trauma.
If a person sustains a severe TBI, they could experience several levels of change in their lifestyle. These may include cognitive changes (or changes in thinking) which may cause them to have a shortened attention span, memory problems, lapse in judgment, loss of reading/writing skills, or difficulty learning new skills.
Some of the changes may be physical, which could include such things as weaken muscles or muscle coordination issues, paralysis, sleep disorders, speech difficulties, and loss of hearing or sight, just to name a few.
There are also possibilities of personality and behavioral changes that could be from barely noticeable to the extreme. These changes can cause people to have difficulty in socializing, feeling empathy toward others, an inability to control emotions, inappropriate or aggressive behavior and extreme mood swings. Individuals who have experienced severe brain trauma are considered to be high risk for depression issues as well.
Prognosis is difficult to predict because of the wide range of issues. Each case is unique depending on the type of injury, and what part of the brain was infected. Your loved one’s prognosis will depend on many factors so a prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best way to help the recovery process.