A serious brain injury is medically referred to as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a traumatic brain injury as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” Depending on their severity TBIs are classified as mild TBIs or moderate to severe TBIs. The Brain Injury Association of America list the following three primary symptoms that indicate a severe TBI:
- Unconsciousness exceeding 24 hours (coma)
- No sleep/ wake cycle during loss of consciousness (LOC)
- Signs of injury appear on neuroimaging tests such as computerize tomography (CT) scans and/ or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
It is important to note that not all hits to the head inevitably result in a TBI. However, when an individual does sustain a TBI the symptoms will vary significantly. For some, a TBI may only affect the exact location on the brain where the injury occurred, while for others a TBI could also affect surrounding tissues and cause damage to one’s brain in other areas apart from the initial site. Some TBI symptoms may appear immediately and dissipate rather quickly, while others may present several days or weeks later, and further, persistent symptoms may evolve over time.
Additional TBI Symptoms
The specific combination and severity of symptoms will depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured. Additional symptoms that are commonly associated with severe TBIs, include but are not limited to the following examples, provided by the Mayo Clinic:
- Persistent, worsening headache
- Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
- Convulsions and/ or seizures
- Repeated vomiting
- Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
- Continued nausea
- Inability to awaken from sleep
- Loss of coordination
- Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
- Clear fluids draining from the nose and/ or ears
- Slurred speech
- Profound confusion
- Coma and other disorders of consciousness
Individuals that sustain severe TBIs are also at increased risk for developing any of the common symptoms associated with mild TBIs (e.g., headache, feelings of fatigue and/ or exhaustion, difficulty falling asleep, memory impairment, confusion, dizziness, irritability, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, anxiety, behavior and/ or mood changes, etc.). Every person is different, and everyone that suffers a TBI will experience a unique combination of symptoms.
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