Brain injuries can change the course of your life in almost every way imaginable, right from your basic personality and temperament to your relationships and career.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to any injury that causes trauma to the brain. Mild injury results in loss of consciousness or a concussion lasting for less than 30 minutes, or you experience disorientation and confusion for a few seconds or minutes.
Our brains have a texture of blancmange and are composed of billions of tiny cells, called neurons. They have hair-like structures spreading out from them. These hair-like structures, or axons, reach out to nearby cells and communicate by sending electrical and chemical impulses. They form a network of neurons that carry signals to and from the brain to every other part of our body.
The nerve cells make for a highly complex pattern of communication, where new pathways develop and take hold as we grow through childhood and reach adulthood.
When a brain injury happens, delicate brain structure is violently jolted, and causes neuron pathways to break, thereby disrupts communication patterns. What results is confusion, inability to follow instructions or complete tasks, memory loss, abnormal speech or language, impairment of higher cognitive functions, loss of control over parts of the body, or even paralysis.
Here are a few things that you should know about TBI, if you or a loved one is suffering from it.
1. What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Traumatic brain injury happens when the brain is shaken inside the protective structure of the skull. The nature of the injury and the extent to which TBIs affect individuals vary from person to person. In some cases, recovery happens fairly quickly, and those who are affected regain their lives, abilities, and capacities. But, in others, recovery does not happen soon and can take anywhere from a few months to several years, or forever.
Doctors find it hard to predict the course of recovery, especially in the first six months. Sometimes CT and MRI scans do not show any signs of internal brain injury or bleeding. Patients are discharged from the hospital on the same day, but suffer from prolonged symptoms for years to come. Also, on the contrary, patients with extensive internal bleeding and those who undergo surgeries sometimes report quick recovery.
A mild traumatic brain injury causes temporary dysfunction of brain cells, which heals soon. Severe TBI, on the other hand, causes bruises, tears, or destruction of brain cells and tissues. They lead to severe health complications, or even death. There are also long-term physical, cognitive, and psychological problems, which require monitoring and care.
2. What Are the Causes of TBI?
It is estimated that there are more than 5 million people in the US who are living with TBI-induced disabilities. More than a million people suffer TBI every year, and about 50,000 die from it. Thousands continue to live with the aftereffects of the injury, long after the wounds have healed.
The biggest causes of TBIs in the US are car accidents, firearm accidents, and slips and falls. Firearm injuries are usually fatal, and most people do not survive the trauma.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause behind TBIs, where the victims also suffer other extensive injuries. Very often, pedestrians and innocent motorists are involved in a crash due to the negligence of other drivers. It is important that you seek legal help to win compensation that will alleviate your and your family’s sufferings to a considerable extent. Consult a brain injury lawyer in Chicago who will be able to work with you on a No Win-No Fee basis.
Slips and falls directly impact the brain, causing TBI and spinal cord injuries.
An open head injury results when a blow or trauma causes in an open wound on the head. This includes gunshot wounds and other trauma that cause primarily focal damage and skull penetration. The effects are as extensive and severe as injuries from closed head trauma.
In closed head trauma, there is no penetration of skull or visible deep wounds, but internal injuries are severe. In addition to focal damage, there is also diffuse damage to axons. When the head is banged against a stationary object, the brain is jolted inside the hard skull encasing. The gelatinous consistency of the brain causes it to shake violently, and stretch and tear the axons. When this happens, the neurons – or brain cells – die, thereby permanently altering our brains forever.
Inhalation or ingestion of poisonous chemicals also causes TBI, where there is extensive damage and death of brain cells and tissues.
Hypoxia is the condition in which the brain cells do not receive sufficient oxygen from circulating blood. No oxygen, or a lack of oxygen, causes death of brain cells, resulting in TBI.
Brain tissues are affected when tumors grow in or on the brain. Tumors push into adjacent empty spaces, and cause excessive pressure on brain tissues, thereby damaging them.
Certain infections also adversely affect brain tissues, causing advanced brain diseases like meningitis and encephalitis. A brain whose protective systems have been compromised is very vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections.
Thus, you can see that TBI can be caused by a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control.
3. Effects of TBI
If you or a loved one has suffered from a TBI, the road to recovery can seem long, unpredictable, and painful. It will be helpful to know the various effects of TBI to deal with your condition better.
Mild TBI may cause loss of consciousness lasting for a few minutes or a few seconds. Sometimes, there is no loss of consciousness, but the person feels dazed, disoriented, or confused.
TBI symptoms and effects do not manifest immediately, and may appear after a considerable period of time. If there is no positive result on MRI or CT scans, patients with mild TBI are discharged immediately from hospitals. But they are advised to monitor for TBI symptoms like headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Excessive drowsiness and fatigue, drastic change in sleeping patterns and difficulty in balancing are all symptoms of mild TBI and requires immediate attention.
Sensory symptoms include increased sensitivity to light or sound, bad taste in mouth, blurred vision, and ringing ears. Cognitive effects include mood swings, difficulty in concentrating, and anxiety.
Severe TBI can cause loss of consciousness for hours, or even longer. Severe TBIs are fatal and can lead to death. Affected persons may spend days, weeks, or even months in an intensive care unit where he or she will be treated for the injuries sustained.
Repeated nausea or vomiting, seizures, loss of coordination, and persistent headache are physical symptoms of moderate to severe TBI. Confusion, memory loss, coma and disorders of consciousness, and behavioral disorders are some of the cognitive effects of severe TBI.
The effects of TBI are devastating, to say the least. Even the mildest TBI is a very serious injury that requires prompt medical attention and specialized diagnosis. Do not lose hope if you have suffered a brain injury. Armed with the right kind of information, it will be possible to counter the effects of TBI and move toward recovery.