A traumatic brain injury, commonly known as TBI, is a severe impairment to the brain resulting from an injury. The injury leads to physical damage, including bruising and bleeding, that can produce long-term and life-changing impediments. TBI can even result in death. Each case of TBI produces different symptoms and consequences, which may be irreversible. Annually, more than 1.3 million brain injuries occur in the United States, resulting in 50,000 deaths.
Causes for a brain injury can vary. Falls are the leading reasons for brain injuries in the United States. Home accidents are the leading cause of brain injuries in senior citizens and children under the age of 14. Motor vehicle accidents are another leading cause of TBI. Brain injuries may also occur due to lack of oxygen, tumors, infection, strokes, sports injuries, and violent assaults.
A person’s skull is made of solid, inflexible material, while the brain is composed of soft, almost gelatin-like material. The brain moves around the encased skull when the skull encounters a stationary object. When the brain and skull move at different rates of speed, a brain injury may occur. If the brain is jarred violently within the skull, axonal shearing may take place. This is when the neurons are stretched too thin and snap, causing the neuron to die.
Brain injuries may be mild or moderate to severe, depending on the severity of the damage. Lasting effects of TBI may be physical or psychological, or both. Symptoms may materialize right after the injury or take days, weeks, or months to develop.
An individual with mild brain damage may become unconscious for just a few seconds or for a few minutes or experience a feeling of being disoriented or confused. Additional symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, trouble sleeping, and loss of balance. A person with a mild brain injury also may become sensitive to light or sound and develop feelings of depression and anxiety.
Someone who experiences moderate to severe brain injuries typically suffers symptoms after the first few hours or days after receiving brain damage. A person with moderate or severe symptoms may experience a loss of consciousness for a few hours, severe headaches that do not go away, and convulsions and seizures. Other difficulties encountered may include weakness or numbness in the arms and legs, dilation of at least one pupil, slurred speech, and loss of bladder control.
A person who experiences a mild brain injury typically will only need rest and pain relievers to recover, but will need to be monitored closely. An individual who suffers from a severe to moderate brain injury will need immediate emergency care. Treatment often includes medications to limit further injury to the brain. Surgery may be needed to remove blood clots and any pieces of the skull that shattered in the brain. A person who experiences a brain injury will often need to undergo rehabilitation to relearn some basic skills and to function normally.