How do I know if I have a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) result from force applied to the human head. In this respect, the word trauma refers to an injury cause by a physical force applied outside of the body. A direct impact or a violent acceleration/deceleration can cause the brain to collide with the inside surface of the skull.
Traumatic brain injuries can sometimes result in lasting, long-term effects. These injuries occur in varying levels of severity, with each case exhibiting its own unique set of symptoms joined by a potential for long-term consequences.
Common Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Self-diagnosis of a mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries may be difficult. However, there are several common symptoms to watch for. If you’re in a car accident, fall, or bump your head at any time – take note of how you’re feeling in the hours and days following the incident. Even if you don’t notice anything out of the ordinary, take heed of any comments or observations your family members might make about anything they happen to notice.
If you experience any of the following, you could have a concussion:
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Desire to Sleep or Abnormal Sleep Patterns
- Lack of Concentration
- Impaired Memory / Confusion
- Loss of Consciousness
- Speech Impairment / Slurring
- Trouble Focusing / Concentrating
- Blurry Vision
- Impulsiveness / Vocal Outbursts
A person who suddenly begins experiencing any of these conditions should seek immediate medical evaluation. A traumatic brain injury can have serious and cumulative effects if it goes undiagnosed. In addition to physiological symptoms, a person may also feel “moody” or just not like themselves. Psychological symptoms of a TBI include:
- Abnormal Irritability
- Increased frustration / temper
- Emotional Instability – Sudden Mood Swings
- Abrupt Personality Changes / Depression
Screening for Traumatic Brain Injuries
If even a small blow or “bump” to the head results in any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to see a doctor immediately. Too many cases of mild traumatic brain injuries go undiagnosed. Symptoms may persist and long term complications can develop or worsen over time.
Screening for a traumatic brain injury can consist of a variety of tests and evaluations. Generally, an initial consult will consist of a doctor asking a patient several questions about his/her health, many of which might pertain to the symptoms listed above and any recent accidents or known blows to the head. Positive screening results may lead further testing which could include:
- Glasgow Coma Scale – A scored set of questions with which a doctor determines a person’s ability to follow simple directions and move their eyes or limbs.
- Computerized Tomography (CT Scan) – X-Rays of the brain scanning for fractures, bruises, bleeding.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Magnetic and radio wave scan to create a more detailed view of the brain (sometimes in conjunction with a CT Scan).
- Intracranial Pressure Monitor – A small medical probe inserted under the skull to monitor pressure on the brain.
Proper screening can be crucial to restoring a victim’s quality of life, beginning the appropriate treatment plan, and to preventing further damage from occurring.
Department of Veterans Affairs – TBI Symptoms & Screening