Traumatic brain injuries may take time to show symptoms

With the majority of serious injuries, you know right away that there is something wrong. Broken bones, for example, can cause excruciating pain or may even leave a limb unable to support any weight. Spinal cord injuries could immediately impact your ability to use your lower body. Cuts and penetrating wounds will produce extreme pain, as well as bleeding.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which are a very serious form of injury, however, are not always so obvious. For many people, the development of symptoms takes days or even weeks after the initial injury. For those who experience accidents, whether it's a motor vehicle collision or a slip-and-fall incident, watching for signs of TBIs is important.

Why do symptoms of TBIs take time to show up?

Your brain controls everything you do. From your personality and memory to your ability to smell items or move your body, everything comes from the brain. It makes sense, then, that the body has an incredible defense system around the brain. Your skull protects your brain and therefore, your life and everything you know. However, after a traumatic accident, that strong skull can be a major source of risk.

When there is bruising, bleeding or swelling of tissues, usually the result is visible injury followed by healing. When the site of the injury is the brain, however, events progress much differently. There is very little room inside the skull to accommodate any swelling or bleeding. That can result in increasing pressure on your brain as the injury progresses. Over time, the pressure from the injury can result in worsening or completely new symptoms.

What should you watch out for after an accident?

Screening for TBIs should be done by medical professionals. However, there are certain symptoms that can alert you to the need for medical care. Any time you strike your head or get roughly shaken in an accident, that is reason to seek medical evaluation. TBIs don't just result from hitting your head on something, although that is a common cause. They can also result from roughly shaking of your brain and penetrating injuries in an accident.

If you lose consciousness during or after the accident, even for a second, that demands medical care. Loss of consciousness is a warning sign for a TBI. Other symptoms could include:

  • issues with balance
  • issues with memory
  • loss of coordination
  • sensory symptoms, like sensitivity to light or ringing in the ears
  • dilation of one or both pupils
  • fatigue or difficulty sleeping
  • fluid leakage from the nose or ears
  • changes in personality or mood
  • slurred speech
  • weakness or numbness in the extremities

Symptoms can worsen over time without adequate treatment. If you experience any of these symptoms after an accident, you should seek immediate medical care. Proper evaluation and treatment can reduce or eliminate symptoms. They can also protect you from worsening damage due to an undiagnosed TBI.

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