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What Is Post-Concussive Syndrome?

Even a minor concussion can lead to ongoing headaches and other symptoms in some people.
Post-concussive syndrome is more likely to occur to women and people involved in car accidents.
Article Details
  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Post-concussive syndrome, also called shell shock, is a condition in which headaches and other symptoms occur after an initial injury resulting in a concussion. It is not fully understood why some people suffer from this and others do not, and the instance of occurrence doesn’t appear to be linked with how serious the concussion itself was. There is no known treatment for post-concussive syndrome, although doctors can offer treatment for the symptoms.

A concussion is a minor form of brain injury that does not generally cause long-term damage. Post-concussive syndrome usually occurs within a week of the initial injury, and it can lead to headaches, dizziness, sensitive to light and sounds, fatigue, lack of concentration, and trouble sleeping. These issues generally subside within a few months, although some patients have been known to deal with them for up to one year or longer. Occasionally, personality changes will also occur.

Treatments for post-concussive syndrome are generally targeted at alleviating symptoms. This generally includes over the counter or prescription medications for pain as well as any mood or anxiety issues. The exact treatment used will depend on the individual patient. Occasionally, alternative therapies can also be beneficial, such as massage or chiropractic care, since symptoms may be caused by underlying neck muscle injuries.

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There are a variety of theories as to why post-concussive syndrome occurs. Some believe it is due to spinal cord or brain stem injuries, while others believe it is caused by psychological factors. Both ideas have validity, and the syndrome may actually be a combination of many factors. This would partially explain why some people suffer from ongoing symptoms and others do not. This would also explain why the severity of the original injury seems to have no bearing on a patient’s likelihood to develop post-concussive syndrome.

Reasons are unclear, but some individuals are more prone to this disorder than others. Elderly individuals, women, and those who were injured in a car accident or assault seem to be more likely than others to develop post-concussive syndrome. This offers some validity to the psychological causes side of the debate, because it seems the more traumatic the injury, the more likely this syndrome is to occur.

Any troubling symptoms experienced after diagnosis of a concussion should be discussed with a doctor. This can be a family doctor or a specialist. Symptoms will likely be monitored to ensure that another condition is not to blame, and treatments can be begun to alleviate any discomfort.

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