Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI is a condition that mainly results from a vigorous blow or thrust to the head or the body. Any object that goes through the brain tissue, for example, a bullet, can cause Traumatic Brain Injury.
Mild TBI affects the brain cells temporarily, whereas a severe injury can lead to grave physical damage to the brain and may even result in long-term complications or death.
What is traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
Traumatic Brain Injury, a form of acquired brain injury, is a sudden external blow or jolt to the head that leads to a disruption in the usual activities of the brain. As a result of this, temporary or permanent deterioration of the function of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial abilities can occur. The state of consciousness can also be altered and plunged. TBIs are significant causes of disability and death worldwide.
A TBI can be a closed (or non-penetrating) brain injury or an open (or penetrating) brain injury. Closed brain injuries happen when the damage to the brain is non-penetrative, whereas open brain injuries occur when there is a break in the skull or penetration of the scalp and involves the head.
The diagnosis is suspected clinically and usually confirmed using an imaging test (primarily a CT scan). Brain flow decreases following a TBI and leads to cerebral oedema.
What are the symptoms of a TBI?
Depending on the extent of damage to the brain, the symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. They are-
- Physical symptoms
- Sensory and Cognitive symptoms
- Behavioural symptoms
- Mental symptoms.
Mild TBI includes physical symptoms like-
- Loss of balance
Sensory symptoms can be blurred vision, tired eyes, changes in the ability to smell, bad taste on the tongue, ringing in the ears, etc.
Other of the cognitive symptoms of TBI include-
- Loss of consciousness for up to a few minutes
- Being dazed or disoriented
- Issues in concentration
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Sleeping difficulties
An individual with moderate to severe TBI can deal with the same symptoms. However, more physical symptoms such as a persistent headache that gets worse, the loss of consciousness can be for a longer duration for up to hours, seizures, dilation of the pupils in the eyes, numbness in the extremities, cerebrospinal fluid leaking from the ears or nose, etc.
Cognitive or mental symptoms dealt with severe TBI individuals are agitation or combativeness, slurred speech, extreme confusion, coma, etc.
Who is affected by TBIs?
Traumatic Brain Injuries affect people of all ages. However, there is a higher prevalence in young children and older adults. Certain groups are at a higher risk of long-term health issues and even death due to a TBI. Some of these groups that are more likely to be severely affected by TBI include:
- Racial and ethnic minorities
- Armed service members and veterans
- Homeless individuals
- Individuals in correctional and detention facilities
- Domestic and intimate partner violence survivors
- Individuals living in rural regions
- Individuals without health insurance or those who have lower incomes
What causes TBIs?
A violent blow or other traumatic injuries to the head or body causes TBI. Some of the leading causes of TBI are as follows:
- Falls: Falls are responsible for many reported cases of TBI, notably in young children and older adults.
- Vehicle-related accidents and collisions: Car, motorcycle, or bicycle accidents are a common cause of traumatic brain injury, especially in the 15 to 19-year age group.
- Violence: Domestic violence, gunshot wounds, child abuse, and other forms of attacks cause TBIs. The shaken baby syndrome also leads to severe brain damage due to violently shaking an infant or toddler.
- Sports injuries: Injuries from various high-impact or extreme sports such as soccer, boxing, football, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, hockey, etc., can result in traumatic brain injuries, particularly in youth.
Explosive blasts and other combat injuries are common causes of TBI in the armed forces.
Work-related industrial accidents, lacerating wounds, severe blows to the head with shrapnel or debris, and falls or bodily collisions with stationary or moving objects can also cause TBIs.
How can a traumatic brain injury affect people?
A traumatic brain injury tends to be a life-changing experience for most individuals. While many individuals are symptom-free within two weeks, some can experience much longer issues.
Patients can have to deal with concussions even after getting a mild TBI. These individuals often have basic cognitive skills like paying attention, concentrating, and remembering new information. Drastically executive functions decrease due to the ability for carrying out. Headaches, dizziness, depression, and irritability are common. They can face massive difficulties in completing tasks that they could once do much more quickly.
The more severe the TBI, the more likely people have complex long-term problems that affect every aspect of their lives, such as personality, personal relationships, work, ability to remain independent, and more.
How do you treat someone with a TBI?
Treatment of TBI depends on various factors such as severity, size, and location of the brain injury. The less severe the damage, the better the prognosis can be. Receiving immediate medical attention following a TBI is essential and may lead to better health outcomes.
Mild TBIs usually require the patient to get an ample amount of rest. Generally, over-the-counter pain-relievers, anti-coagulants, anticonvulsants, diuretics, antidepressant drugs manage the symptoms. Regularly monitoring for patients need to check for persistent or worsening symptoms. The doctor indicates when it is ideal for returning to regular activities gradually.
Sometimes patients may need surgery for treating severe TBI. Immediate treatment includes focusing on preventing further brain damage, death, and coma, stabilising the patient’s vital organ functions, ensuring adequate oxygen supply, and maintaining blood pressure.
Getting help from a mental health professional can help better manage and accept what one is experiencing. Talk to a therapist from UnitedWeCare today about TBI and seek rehabilitation and support.
It is always better to take precautionary measures to prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries. Simple tips like wearing seatbelts, helmets, installing safety gates and grab bars at home for children and older adults, not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, etc., can effectively prevent TBIs. And lastly, adequate rehabilitation and support facilities must be available to individuals with TBIs.