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Symptoms of Traumatic and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
(from the Brain Injury Association of America @www.biausa.org)

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury occurs when an outside force impacts the head hard enough to cause the brain to move within the skull or the force causes the skull to break and directly hurts the brain.

  • A direct blow to the head can be great enough to injure the brain inside the skull. A direct force to the head can also break the skull and directly hurt the brain. This type of injury can occur from motor vehicle crashes, firearms, falls, sports, and physical violence, such as hitting or striking with an object.
  • A rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head can force the brain to move back and forth across the inside of the skull. The stress from the rapid movements pulls apart nerve fibers and causes damage to brain tissue. This type of injury often occurs as a result of motor vehicle crashes and physical violence, such as Shaken Baby Syndrome. This means you do not have to hit your head to suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury.

Symptoms

A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency.

After an impact to the head, a person with a brain injury can experience a variety of symptoms but not necessarily all of the following symptoms. This information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or examination. A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency. Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include, but are not limited to:

  • Spinal fluid (thin water-looking liquid) coming out of the ears or nose
  • Loss of consciousness; however, loss of consciousness may not occur in some concussion cases
  • Dilated (the black center of the eye is large and does not get smaller in light) or unequal size of pupils
  • Vision changes (blurred vision or seeing double, not able to tolerate bright light, loss of eye movement, blindness)
  • Dizziness, balance problems
  • Respiratory failure (not breathing)
  • Coma (not alert and unable to respond to others) or semicomatose state
  • Paralysis, difficulty moving body parts, weakness, coordination
  • Slow pulse
  • Slow breathing rate, with an increase in blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (sluggish, sleepy, gets tired easily)
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Ringing in the ears, or changes in ability to hear
  • Difficulty with thinking skills (difficulty “thinking straight”, memory problems, poor judgment, poor attention span, a slowed thought processing speed)
  • Inappropriate emotional responses (irritability, easily frustrated, inappropriate crying or laughing)
  • Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing
  • Body numbness or tingling
  • Loss of bowel control or bladder control

A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency.

Levels of Brain Injury

Emergency personnel typically determine the severity of neurological injury to the brain by using an assessment called the Glascow Coma Scale (GCS). The terms Mild Brain Injury, Moderate Brain Injury, and Severe Brain Injury are used to describe the level of initial injury in relation to the neurological severity caused to the brain. There may be no correlation between the initial Glascow Coma Scale score and the initial level of brain injury and a person’s short or long term recovery, or functional abilities.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Keep in mind that there is nothing “Mild” about a brain injury—again, the term “Mild” Brain injury is used to describe a level of neurological injury. Any injury to the brain is a real and serious medical condition.

Mild traumatic brain injury occurs when:

  • Loss of consciousness is very brief, usually a few seconds or minutes
  • Loss of consciousness does not have to occur—the person may be dazed or confused
  • Testing or scans of the brain may appear normal
  • A mild traumatic brain injury is diagnosed only when there is a change in the mental status at the time of injury—the person is dazed, confused, or loses consciousness. The change in mental status indicates that the person’s brain functioning has been altered, this is called a concussion.

Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Balance problems
  • Decreased concentration and attention span
  • Decreased speed of thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Emotional mood swings

This information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or examination. A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency. Symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury can be temporary. The majority of people with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury recover after one year.

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