Brain injuries range in severity from a minor bump or bruise to the head to a severe head injury, known as traumatic brain injury, (TBI). These injuries are often caused by falls, sports injuries, or being struck by an object to the head.
An estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a good time to raise awareness about brain injuries and how best to prevent them.
While anyone can experience a brain injury, the effects can differ based on a person's age and overall health. When a child experiences a brain injury it can impact their development, including changes in their intellect, thinking, and general behavior. The American Speech Language Association classifies a traumatic brain injury in children as chronic disease process because the symptoms and effects can continue as the brain develops. The effects of the TBI may sometimes not be realized until later in life as the child develops.
TBI is especially common for older adults, who are more likely to experience falls. Elderly patients, however, often miss traumatic brain injuries because symptoms, like memory disruption or confusion, may already be present. This is why older adults should always be checked for TBIs if they have experienced a fall or have been involved in a vehicle accident.
At whatever age, it's important to detect a brain injury as early as possible to help prevent further issues. While headaches, nausea, and dizziness are typical brain injury symptoms, severe TBIs can also cause seizures, numbness, and even memory loss. Some people may experience post traumatic amnesia, (PTA). The patient may not form memories for events immediately before, during, or immediately after the trauma, (called retrograde or anterograde amnesia).
Non-traumatic brain injuries have similar symptoms to a traumatic brain injury. The main difference is that non-traumatic brain injuries are not caused by trauma. Non-traumatic brain injuries are caused by infection, substance abuse, oxygen deprivation, aneurysm, tumors, or even lead poisoning, among other causes. Both forms of brain injury are similar in that they can impact a person's brain function; if a part of the brain is damaged from any cause it is lost forever as the brain does not regrow.
Take steps to limit the possibility of brain injury. Always wear a seatbelt in the car and never drive under the influence of any substance. Install handrails in the home to decrease the risk of a fall. Make your home safe for children, and always have them wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboarding, or participating in physical sports like football.