Traumatic brain injury has become increasingly common in adults and children. Studies show that 1.4 million Americans will experience TBI this year. In the United States alone, these injuries lead to 275,000 hospitalizations and 52,000 deaths annually.
TBI results from a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts normal function of the brain. The most common cause is a fall, which most often affects small children and older adults. Head injuries are also commonly caused by a variety of other incidents, including motor vehicle accidents and blunt trauma, like being hit by an object.
Traumatic brain injury can be serious and even life threatening, so it is important to understand how to determine if a person is at risk for, or suffering from, a head injury.
TBI ranges in severity from mild to severe. About 75 percent are made up of concussions, or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury. Adults or children experiencing a concussion or MTBI typically display loss of consciousness for seconds to a few minutes, a state of being dazed or confused, headache, nausea or vomiting, drowsiness or difficulty sleeping, dizziness and loss of balance. These victims may also experience blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell. They may show signs of mood swings, depression or anxious behavior.
Moderate to severe TBI symptoms are much more serious. Individuals with severe cases will likely require hospitalization. Severe TBI can result in coma or amnesia, lasting brain damage and sometimes death. Patients may experience loss of consciousness for several minutes to hours, severe headaches, repeated vomiting, convulsions or seizures, pupil dilation, fluids draining from the nose and eyes, weakness or numbness in fingers and toes, loss of coordination, profound confusion, slurred speech, agitation or combativeness, coma and amnesia.
Severe TBI can affect all aspects of a victim’s life, and the lives of their friends and family. Studies show that approximately 5.3 million Americans live with TBI-related disabilities. Disabilities that develop from traumatic brain injury can inhibit a person’s ability to drive, complete household tasks, maintain employment and even uphold relationships.
However, proper treatment and rehabilitation can help restore these patients to their fullest potential.
Because it is difficult to determine the severity of TBI, all head injuries should be taken very seriously. Immediate treatment after experiencing a head injury can minimize the severity and lasting effects of TBI.
If you or someone in your care experiences a blow to the head, it is important to see a doctor right away. Do not wait for traumatic brain injury symptoms to occur.
Dr. Nicole Everman is with KentuckyOne Health Neurology Associates