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A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can range from a mild concussion to a severe head injury. It is caused by a blow to the head or body, a wound that breaks through the skull (such as from a gunshot), a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain. This can cause bruising, swelling, or tearing of brain tissue.
With rest, most people fully recover from a mild brain injury. But some people who have had a severe or repeated brain injury may have long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speaking.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury range from mild to severe and can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months. These symptoms may include:
If you develop these kinds of symptoms at any time after a head injury—even much later—call your doctor.
You may need another person to watch you closely to make sure that your symptoms aren't getting worse. Follow your doctor's instructions about how long you need someone to stay with you.
The doctor will ask you questions about the injury. He or she may ask questions that test your ability to pay attention, learn, remember, and solve problems. The doctor will check for physical signs of a brain injury by checking your reflexes, strength, balance, coordination, and sensation. The doctor may order imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI to make sure that your brain isn't bruised or bleeding. You may need tests to see if your brain is working as it should.
If your brain has been damaged, you may need treatment and rehabilitation, perhaps on a long-term basis. This might include:
You may need to try different types of treatment before finding the one that helps you. Your doctor can help you with this. Treatment can help you feel more in control of your emotions, have fewer symptoms, and enjoy life again.
Your brain will need time to heal. Rest is the best way to recover. Here are some tips to help you get better:
Long after the brain injury, you may still feel mental and physical effects (postconcussive syndrome), or new symptoms may develop.
If you find that you are feeling sad or blue or aren't enjoying the activities or hobbies that you enjoyed in the past, talk to your doctor about these feelings. You may have depression, which is common with chronic pain and other symptoms of a brain injury. If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, call 911 or 1-800-273-TALK (suicide hotline), or go to a hospital emergency room.
If someone you care about has had a traumatic brain injury, you may feel helpless. It's hard to watch someone who used to be active or happy become inactive, struggle with speech and memory, or suffer from chronic pain. But there are some things you can do to help.
It's possible for long-lasting effects of a brain injury to lead to depression. And depression can lead to suicide. Call 911 or the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or other emergency services if the person plans to harm himself or herself or others.
Current as of:
May 23, 2014
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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