A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of a TBI may range from mild, i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe, i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or memory loss after the injury.
Most TBIs that occur each year are mild, commonly called concussions. Most people with a concussion recover well from symptoms experienced at the time of the injury. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks or longer. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children and teens.
Those who have had a concussion in the past are also at risk of having another one. Some people may also find that it takes longer to recover if they have another concussion.
Symptoms of concussion usually fall into four categories: thinking/remembering such as difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering new information; physical such as headache, fuzzy or blurry vision, nausea or vomiting (early on), dizziness, sensitivity to noise or light, balance problems, feeling tired, having no energy; emotional/mood such as irritability, sadness, more emotional, nervousness or anxiety; and sleep such as sleeping more than usual, sleeping less than usual and trouble falling asleep.
Some of these symptoms may appear right away. Others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury or until the person resumes their everyday life. Sometimes, people do not recognize or admit that they are having problems. Others may not understand their problems and how the symptoms they are experiencing impact their daily activities.
People with a concussion need to be seen by a health care professional. Your health care professional can evaluate your concussion and determine if you need to be referred to a neurologist, neuropsychologist, neurosurgeon or specialist in rehabilitation (such as a speech pathologist) for specialized care. Getting help soon after the injury by trained specialists may improve recovery.
In rare cases, a person with a concussion may form a dangerous blood clot that crowds the brain against the skull. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you experience these danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to your head or body: headache that gets worse and does not go away; weakness, numbness or decreased coordination; repeated vomiting or nausea; or slurred speech.
The people checking on you should take you to an emergency department right away if you look very drowsy or cannot wake up; have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other; have convulsions or seizures; cannot recognize people or places; are getting more and more confused, restless or agitated; have unusual behavior; or lose consciousness.
Take your child to the emergency department right away if they received a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, and have any of the danger signs for listed above. Additionally, take them for care if they will not stop crying and are inconsolable or will not nurse or eat.
There are many ways to reduce the chances of sustaining a traumatic brain injury. These include wearing a seat belt every time you drive — or ride — in a motor vehicle and never driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
You should also wear a helmet, or appropriate headgear, when you or your children ride a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or use an all-terrain vehicle; play a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey or boxing; use in-line skates or ride a skateboard; bat and run bases in baseball or softball; ride a horse; or ski or snowboard.
As you get older, talk to your doctor to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do to reduce your risk for a fall.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines, over-the counter medicines, herbal supplements and vitamins.
It’s also important to have your eyes checked at least once a year and be sure to update your eyeglasses, if needed.
Do strength and balance exercises to make your legs stronger and improve your balance, and take steps to make your home safer.
For families with children, make sure living and play areas are safe by installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows; use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around; and make sure your child’s playground has soft material under it, such as hardwood mulch or sand.
To Your Health is provided by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.