Definition & Facts
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, there are approximately 2.6 million people in the United States who have some sort of traumatic brain injury every year. Of those 2.6 million people, approximately 52,000 die as a result of the traumatic brain injury they have sustained.
There are several kinds of injuries that can lead to brain damage. The first is a traumatic brain injury or TBI. This is due to an external force, which can cause the brain to move around inside of the skull (concussion), damage the skull, or even penetrate the skull, which in turn causes damage to the brain.
Another type of injury that can cause brain damage is acquired brain injury or ABI. This most often happens when there is pressure on the brain. It can include stroke as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Symptoms & Complaints
- Difficulty processing information
- Issues understanding other people
- Inability to express what one is thinking
- Inability to understand abstract ideas
- Memory loss
- Short attention span
- Difficulty in making decisions
Perceptual symptoms include the following:
- Heightened sensitivity to pain
- Difficulties with balance
- Changes in smell or taste
- Changes in hearing or vision
Physical symptoms include the following:
- Headaches that will not go away
- Losing consciousness
- Being extremely fatigued either mentally or physically or both
- Speech that is slurred
- Light sensitivity
- Sleep disorders
Behavioral or emotional symptoms include the following:
- Reactions or emotions that are heightened or flattened
- Inability to tolerate stress
- Lack of energy
Brain damage can occur when the brain does not get the oxygen it needs to survive. There are a wide range of conditions, illnesses, and injuries that can cause an injury to the brain. Traumatic brain injuries that can lead to brain damage include the following:
- Forceful hit to the head
- An accidental fall or something falling on a person's head
- Car accident
- Physical violence
- Various sports injuries
Acquired brain injury causes which can lead to brain damage include:
- Neurological illnesses
- Choking, strangulation, drowning
- Heart attack
- Illegal drug abuse
Those that are at the highest risk are males between the ages of 15 and 24. The elderly and young children are also at a higher risk of experiencing a brain injury that could result in brain damage.
Diagnosis & Tests
When there is a severe case of brain damage, it is quite clear to doctors. But when the damage is minor, it can be more difficult to detect. There are a variety of tests that will be performed in order to determine if there is damage to the brain and the extent of the damage.
- An in-depth neurological examination will be performed. This will show whether or not the brain has sustained an injury.
- The use of brain imaging, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, SPECT, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scan will help reveal whether or not the brain has been damaged.
- A cognitive evaluation may be completed by a neuropsychologist. This evaluation will show whether or not the patient has any impairment in their cognitive functions.
Anyone that has had a head injury should see their doctor immediately. An injury to the head that may not seem that serious, could end up being serious and leading to brain damage if it is not diagnosed and treated. An injury to the brain does not have to lead to brain damage, but if left untreated, permanent damage could be the outcome.
Treatment & Therapy
When a patient has brain damage, doctors will ensure that the patient is stable. This is to ensure that there is no further injury or damage caused to the brain. The doctor will need to ensure that the patient's blood pressure is normal and that the brain is receiving the proper amount of oxygen and blood from the body. Rehabilitation for brain damage involves occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy.
Prevention & Prophylaxis
- Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- Do not drink alcohol and drive
- Do not use any form of illegal drugs
- Never shake a baby or child of any age
- Install material that will absorb shock around a playground to reduce the risk of injury when falling
- Wear a helmet when on a bicycle
- Wear a helmet when participating in sports
- Install window guards on the windows in a home to help prevent a child from falling out of it
- Use a step-stool when trying to reach items that are higher up, this will help to prevent unnecessary falls
- Wear seat-belts when driving or riding in a vehicle
- Drive carefully, obey all traffic signals and signs, and avoid distractions
- Keep guns unloaded and locked up
- Ensure all stairways have handrails