As we close out Brain Injury Awareness Month, we must address one of the most common types of injuries that afflict countless people: traumatic brain injury (TBI). Every year, more than 1.7 million people suffer from TBIs with approximately 235,000 people hospitalized for the injury in the US alone. Further, more than 5 million Americans live with disabilities due to TBI. Such head injuries make up 34% of traumatic deaths according to the CDC, and individuals aged 30 years and up are increasingly at risk. Take the appropriate steps to protect yourself early by learning the signs and symptoms of a TBI so you can get immediate treatment should you ever become injured.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury is when the head experiences an extreme force or impact that is so damaging that it interrupts the brain’s normal functionality. TBIs can also occur after an object somehow pierces brain tissue, as in the case of a bullet wound or if the skull fractures and penetrates the brain matter underneath.
TBIs can vary in severity from mild to severe. Although there are symptoms shared between these different intensity levels, there are certain elements to look out for to help you differentiate if a loved one has sustained a TBI:
|Headache||Difficulty forming coherent thoughts||Irritability|
|Dizziness; loss of coordination||Difficulty concentrating||Heightened anxiety|
|Blurred vision||Trouble with memory||Sadness|
|Lethargy||Feeling slowed down|
|Sensitivity to noise and/or light|
Those suffering from a TBI may also face significant difficulty when sleeping – they may sleep more often than normal, struggle to fall asleep, or – on the complete opposite end of the spectrum – may not be getting any sleep at all. Note that these symptoms do not always show up right away. In mild cases, they may take several days to manifest. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, you should always seek medical attention immediately to know what you should be looking out for, if anything. No matter what, never write off the possibility of a TBI simply because you didn't notice any signs right away. This can leave the afflicted individual worse off than before.
What to Look for In Extreme Cases
Like any injury, TBIs display symptoms on a continuous scale. Some symptoms manifest no matter how extreme the injury is, while others only show up when it becomes fatal. If you observe any of the following symptoms, take the individual to an emergency room right away:
- Worsening headache that will not subside
- Weakness and/or numbness associated with a lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Repeated vomiting, persisting nausea
- A single dilated pupil
- Inability to recognize people or places
- Convulsions and/or seizures
- Unusual behavior
- Drowsiness or trouble waking up
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion and restlessness
Children with a TBI may display different symptoms for severe cases. In addition to the signs listed above, they may also refuse to nurse or eat, and become inconsolable with unusually excessive crying. If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one, you need to call for emergency help and get them medical attention immediately. Doing so may very well save their life.