Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

by Sharon Hopkins

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when an external force damages the brain and affects its functioning. The injury may be caused by the skull hitting a solid object such as a wall or a floor or by an object that penetrates the skull such as a bullet.

Traumatic brain injury can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. The symptoms of traumatic brain injury vary widely depending on the area of the brain that is affected and the severity of the injury. In cases of mild trauma, the individual may suffer from a temporary dysfunction of the brain cells. On the other hand, moderate to severe cases of traumatic brain injury may result in symptoms of brain dysfunction over the long term that are irreversible.

The appearance of the skull may be deceptive. The damage could be severe even if there is no sign of external bleeding or injury. This usually occurs when there is internal bleeding or when the trauma results in direct injury to the brain.

Symptoms of traumatic brain injury in adults may appear immediately after the trauma occurs or may appear after a few days or even weeks. In the case of mild traumatic injury, symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a short while
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Problems with memory
  • Headache
  • Dizziness and an inability to keep one’s balance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with the senses such as blurred vision, a ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Mood swings
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping too much

In the case of moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, symptoms include those of mild injury as well as:

  • Loss of consciousness that can last for hours
  • Extreme confusion or disorientation
  • Unusual behavior such as aggressiveness and agitation
  • Slurred speech
  • Deep sleep with difficulty in awakening
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Repeated bouts of nausea and vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Fluid seepage from the ears or nose

Symptoms of traumatic brain injury to the frontal lobe can affect motor skills, thought patterns, emotions and even the personality of the individual depending on which half of the frontal lobe is injured. Because of this, damage to the frontal lobe may affect areas such as attention span, judgment, motivation. Language and communication skills

In the case of infants and children, an inability to communicate may make it difficult to realize that anything is amiss. In such cases, symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Changes in nursing or eating patterns
  • Constant crying
  • Irritability
  • Inability to stay focused
  • Altered sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in activities that were interesting
  • Being unresponsive

You should consult your doctor immediately if your child has suffered a blow to the head or if you notice abnormal behavior as it may be a sign of traumatic brain injury.

Do not be deceived by the use of the term “mild”. The terms “mild”, “moderate” and “severe” are used to describe the degree to which brain function is affected. A so-called “mild” injury can still be a serious one requiring immediate medical attention.

The long term effects of a traumatic brain injury are difficult to predict as they depend on the type of injury as well as the severity. Some individuals recover completely while others suffer life-long consequences despite extensive rehabilitation. The extent to which rehabilitation can help an individual regain brain function is also difficult to predict.



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