Injuries to the head can have devastating consequences. Traumatic brain injuries can occur from a variety of causes, and they can range from mild to severe. With severe injuries, full recovery is rare, and there are long-lasting physical, mental and emotional complications.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, a traumatic brain injury can occur from a penetration wound or when the head strikes an object violently. The majority of TBIs are due to motor vehicle wrecks, and recreational activities, such as sports, are a common cause of TBIs among younger people. Falls are frequent causes in older people.
More than 30% of traumatic deaths are due to traumatic head injuries, and millions of people have some type of disability due to a head injury. These disabilities are lifelong for an average of 85,000 people each year.
According to the Mayo Clinic, many symptoms of severe head injuries show up within hours or days of the incident. Physical ones include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Constant nausea and vomiting
- Pupil dilation
- Numbness in toes and fingers
- Draining of clear liquid from ears or nose
There are also cognitive symptoms such as agitation, extreme confusion and slurred speech. Along with changes in consciousness such as brain death and vegetative state, there are numerous complications that can occur for those with a TBI. These include infections, brain swelling, vertigo and cranial nerve damage. Cognitive issues with reasoning, learning, memory and judgment are also common.
Severe or repetitive brain injuries can also increase one’s risk of degenerative diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Patients who survive severe TBIs often require surgery, medication and years of rehabilitation.