By Craig Kelley, Inserra Kelley Sewell
On average, traumatic brain injuries claim 150 Americans’ lives every day.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be mild, moderate or severe. A mild traumatic brain injury is a closed head injury that causes the athlete to lose consciousness or be disoriented. These types of TBIs typically last less than 30 minutes. Though symptoms may not occur until hours after the incident, severe TBIs can cause seizures and loss of vision or consciousness for multiple hours.
The most common TBI is a concussion. Almost three million people in the United States suffer a concussion each year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) The leading causes of concussions are car accidents, falls and sports. Some long-term effects of a TBI include:
Headaches are the most common lasting effects of a TBI. Mild to moderate headaches, migraines, tension headaches, ocular headaches and various other types of headaches can reoccur from time to time, weeks, months or even years after the injury.
The second most prevalent symptom is sensitivity to light. It is often called photosensitivity or photophobia. Individuals who experience this can have sensitivity to all lights or a specific type of light.
Over 80% of people who suffer a TBI report dizziness and vertigo post-injury. Dizziness can fade on its own with time, but there are therapies if the dizziness persists or comes back.
Some sleep issue affects 30%-70% of TBI victims. Some patients are sleepy more often during the day or generally need more sleep. Others develop insomnia or have fragmented sleep.
Mood Swings / Personality Changes
People who have experienced a TBI can undergo mood swings and personality changes after the event. Common personality changes include:
- Impulsive behavior
- Problems with planning or multi-tasking
- Suicidal behaviors
Reduced ability to retain information short-term is common in TBI patients. Staying organized or remembering simple tasks can become a challenge for some, even long after the injury. Some s individuals have reported smell and taste dysfunction because the brain coordinates those receptors.
Parkinson’s Disease affects the nervous system and body parts controlled by nerves. This progressive disorder may cause tremors and stiffness in the arms or legs.
Alzheimer’s Disease causes memory loss and cognitive impairment. It is a progressive brain ailment, and eventually, people with Alzheimer’s struggle to hold conversations or complete simple day-to-day tasks.
TBI symptoms are not always obvious and may occur months or even years after the incident. It is essential to be aware of the common long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries and to seek medical attention for any new or reoccurring symptoms.
Before symptoms occur, a medical professional might recommend additional testing to verify if there is a TBI and how severe it is. There are various medical tools available to diagnose and measure the severity of a traumatic brain injury. Assessment usually includes a neurological exam to evaluate thinking, motor function, sensory function, eye movement and reflexes. There are also imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI, although they cannot detect all TBIs.
The Glasgow Coma Scale is a 15-point test that helps doctors assess how severe the injury is by checking their ability to move their limbs, move their eyes and follow directions. The scores range from three to 15. Higher scores mean less severe injuries. Another tool in the medical field’s arsenal is Eye BOX, a simple test that collects data based on cranial nerve function and eye-tracking movement. This process is independent of a patient’s language and doesn’t require a baseline for comparison. Eye BOX uses this technology to calculate a score that can determine the existence or absence of a TBI.
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