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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a medical condition that can affect one’s physical, neurological, and/ or emotional functioning. The American Association of Neurological Surgery explains that TBI “is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” When the brain collides with the inside of the skull it can cause the brain to bleed, bruising of the brain, and/ or tearing of nerve fibers. In situations where the skull is broken, a piece of the skull could penetrate brain tissue. TBIs are divided into two categories (mild TBIs which are also known as concussions or moderate to severe TBIs) each with corresponding and somewhat distinct symptoms. 

TBI Symptoms

The symptoms associated with TBI vary significantly, as they depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured. 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. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides the following examples of TBI symptoms:

  • Symptoms of mild TBI include:
    • Headache
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Memory impairment
    • Blurred vision
    • Behavioral changes
  • Moderate to severe TBI can produce additional symptoms including:
    • Repeated vomiting or nausea
    • Slurred speech
    • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
    • Convulsions and/ or seizures
    • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
    • Inability to awaken from sleep
    • Loss of coordination
    • Combativeness 
    • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
    • Clear fluids draining from the nose and/ or ears
    • Profound confusion
    • Agitation 
    • Coma and other disorders of consciousness
    • Death

According to Medical News Today, “signs and symptoms may appear at once, within 24 hours, or they may emerge days or weeks after the injury.” Further, the nature of TBI symptoms can shift, as some symptoms may appear immediately and dissipate rather quickly, while others may present several days or weeks later, and persistent symptoms may evolve over time. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

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