Signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a condition caused by a sudden trauma, such as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury, that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Examples of these impacts include the head hitting a solid object, such as a wall or steering wheel, or an object penetrating the skull and brain. TBIs range from mild to moderate, severe or penetrating. While certain signs and symptoms of TBI can be apparent, the injury can also be invisible immediately following the impact.

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Causes of TBI
 
TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.  It also can be a result of several different incidents, such as falls or motor vehicle crashes.  
 
Signs and symptoms of TBI

The signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be subtle. Symptoms of a TBI may not appear until days or weeks following the injury or may even be missed as people may look fine even though they may act or feel differently. The following are some common signs and symptoms of a TBI:
¢ Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
¢ No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented
¢ Memory or concentration problems
¢ Headache
¢ Dizziness or loss of balance
¢ Nausea or vomiting
¢ Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
¢ Sensitivity to light or sound
¢ Mood changes or mood swings
¢ Feeling depressed or anxious
¢ Fatigue or drowsiness
¢ Difficulty sleeping
¢ Sleeping more than usual
 
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include any of the signs and symptoms of mild injury, as well as the following symptoms that may appear within the first hours to days after a head injury:
¢ Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
¢ Profound confusion
¢ Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
¢ Slurred speech
¢ Inability to awaken from sleep
¢ Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
¢ Loss of coordination
¢ Persistent headache or headache that worsens
¢ Repeated vomiting or nausea
¢ Convulsions or seizures
¢ Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
¢ Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
 
Children’s symptoms
Infants and young children with brain injuries may lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and similar symptoms. In a child with traumatic brain injury, you may observe:
¢ Change in eating or nursing habits
¢ Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
¢ Unusual or easy irritability
¢ Change in ability to pay attention
¢ Change in sleep habits
¢ Sad or depressed mood
¢ Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities
 
When to see a doctor
Always see your doctor if you or your child has received a blow to the head or body that concerns you or causes behavioral changes. Seek emergency medical care if there are any signs or symptoms of traumatic brain injury following a recent blow or other traumatic injury to the head. The terms “mild,” “moderate” and “severe” are used to describe the effect of the injury on brain function. A mild injury to the brain is still a serious injury that requires prompt attention and an accurate diagnosis.

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