According to the CDC, moderate, severe, and traumatic brain injury can lead to physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral change for the rest of a person’s life. Brain injuries can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms may come on later. Immediately following an accident, a person may appear fine. But their condition can decline rapidly. It is also possible they are mistaken for other collision-related injuries. While only a doctor can tell if you have a permanent traumatic brain injury (TBI), there are symptoms and signs to look out for that might indicate whether a TBI is permanent.
What Causes a TBI?
A TBI is damage to the brain caused by a blow or impact to the head. During an accident, the brain moves back and forth inside the skull, resulting in nerve fiber tearing, bleeding, and bruising. Common causes include car or motorcycle crashes, pedestrian accidents, slips or falls, and assaults. The highest number of TBI-related deaths are attributable to motor vehicle crashes in individuals aged 15 to 34. The severity of a TBI ranges from mild concussions to severe permanent TBI.
For the most part, mild TBIs do not cause permanent damage to the brain. However, more severe injuries cause the brain to swell and expand inside the skull, inducing a secondary brain injury. The secondary brain injury occurs due to the body’s inflammatory response to the primary injury. The swelling can lead to even more brain damage. These types of severe TBIs can certainly cause permanent brain damage with life-long consequences.
However, even severe TBIs have elusive symptoms that might make obtaining treatment difficult. Thus, people must seek prompt attention when they suspect they have suffered a TBI.
How Is a TBI Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you suffered a TBI, seek a healthcare provider immediately. A provider will examine you, ask about your symptoms, and learn more about what caused the injury to help determine the severity. Depending on the severity of the injury and symptoms, the provider might refer you for a neurological evaluation, imaging tests (like a CT scan or MRI), or a blood test that looks for proteins in your blood indicating concussion or mild TBI. Be sure to follow your provider’s guidance, even if you might otherwise feel fine.
The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Fatigue or drowsiness;
- Problems with speech;
- Dizziness or loss of balance;
- Sensory problems, like ringing in the ears, blurred vision, changes in the ability to smell; and
- Sensitivity to light or sound.
In addition to physical and sensory symptoms, a person might experience cognitive, behavioral, or mental symptoms, such as:
- 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;
- Mood changes or mood swings;
- Feeling depressed or anxious;
- Difficulty sleeping; and
- Sleeping more than usual.
Mild TBI usually requires rest and medication to relieve headaches. Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include any signs and symptoms of a mild TBI. Moderate symptoms may appear within the first hours to days after the accident. Physical symptoms of a moderate TBI tend to be more evident than those of a mild TBI, including persistent headache, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions, seizures, pupil dilation, clear fluids draining from the ears or nose, inability to awaken from sleep, and weakness or numbness in fingers and toes. Cognitive symptoms might include agitation, combativeness, unusual behavior, slurred speech, profound confusion, and coma.
Infants and young children with TBI might be unable to communicate their symptoms, so watch out for a change in eating or nursing habits, sleep habits, persistent crying, seizures, loss of interest in favorite toys or activities, and irritability.
Long-Term Consequences of TBI
According to the CDC, people with moderate to severe TBI typically face chronic health problems. Among those still alive five years after a TBI, more than half are moderately or severely disabled, and more than half do not have a job (but were previously employed).
Even with inpatient rehabilitation services, a person’s life expectancy is nine years shorter after a moderate to severe TBI. Examples of disabilities and motor deficits caused by moderate to severe TBI include:
- Problems walking, talking, or swallowing;
- Muscle stiffness;
- Muscle weakness;
- Loss of fine motor skills;
- Vision problems;
- Inability to recognize something based on touch;
- Difficulty thinking and remembering; and
- Difficulty with social relationships.
A person with moderate or severe TBI may also have difficulty participating in recreational or leisure activities and a decreased ability or inability to keep a job or go to school. The direct consequences of a TBI can result in other secondary conditions. These conditions might include seizures, sleep disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, neuroendocrine dysregulation, and psychiatric problems.
Changes caused by a TBI can persist for months or years after injury and significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Unfortunately, there are limited therapeutic interventions that have been shown to improve the long-term consequences of TBI.
Can I Receive Compensation?
If the negligence of another caused your TBI, you may be eligible for compensation. Compensation can help cover the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The best way to ensure adequate compensation is to consult an experienced attorney.
Did You Suffer a TBI Due to Someone Else’s Negligence?
The Frederick Law Firm is a personal injury law firm with over 40 years of experience helping injury victims recover compensation for their injuries. We care deeply about the well-being of our clients and can help take the burden of your accident off your shoulders. We help clients throughout California’s central coast with TBI-related injuries caused by the negligence of another. Let us fight to get you financial compensation for your TBI. Contact us online today or give us a call at 805-929-1120 for a free consultation.