Signs You Had Brain Trauma and Didn't Know It

Approximately, 64,000 TBI-related deaths were reported in the United States in 2020. That's about 176 TBI-related deaths every day. Many more TBIs go untreated and undiagnosed until it is too late and irreparable damage has been done to the organ affecting the patient’s way of life forever.

An undiagnosed traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a variety of long-term effects on your overall physical health, mental wellness, and cognitive ability. Because of how easy it is to sustain a TBI, one needs to be familiar with its signs and symptoms and know when to seek advanced medical treatment.

Some physical and psychological signs and symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later. TBI is broken into two major categories, mild traumatic brain injury and moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries.

The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:

• Headache

• Nausea or vomiting

• Fatigue or drowsiness

• Blurred vision

• Dizziness or loss of balance

• Insomnia

These are normally temporary and improve with proper treatment and targeted physical therapy.

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include any of the signs and symptoms of mild injury, as well as these symptoms that may appear within the first hours or few days after a head injury:

• Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours

• Persistent headache or headache that worsens

• Repeated vomiting or nausea

• Seizures

• Dilation of one or both pupils

These symptoms normally point to a more critical or structural issue in the brain like a potential bleed.

Persons with undiagnosed trauma may not lose consciousness, but they continue to be in a state of being dazed, confused, or disoriented and they may find that they have memory or concentration challenges.

Extreme mood changes, insomnia, and excessive sleepiness are also very prevalent among patients with undiagnosed TBIs.

Headaches, which we all take for granted, are a very common symptom of a traumatic brain injury. They may begin within a week after the injury and could persist for as long as several months. Patients have also experienced vertigo, a condition characterized by dizziness.

Sometimes, any or several of these symptoms might linger for a few weeks to a few months after a TBI. When a combination of these symptoms lasts for an extended period of time, this is generally referred to as persistent post-concussive symptoms.

A behavioral red flag when someone has undiagnosed TBI is agitation, combativeness, or other unusual behavior. Slurred speech that leads to coma and other disorders of consciousness may follow.

It is recommended to get evaluated right after sustaining a head injury to be properly evaluated. The first thing doctors will do is stabilize you to prevent further injury. They will manage your blood pressure, check the pressure inside your skull, and make sure that there is enough blood and oxygen getting to your brain.

For mild TBI, the main treatment is rest. If you have a headache, you can try taking over-the-counter pain relievers. It is important to follow your health care provider's instructions for adequate rest and a gradual return to your normal activities. If you start doing too much too soon, you will hinder your recovery.

You may have sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth, or changes in the ability to smell. Due to the brain being in a healing state, you can have sensitivity to light or sound. You may have cognitive, behavioral, or mental symptoms. All of this can point to prolonged symptoms of your mild TBI or moderate to severe TBI. At this point, targeted exams and treatments will be required to help you heal.

If you have a head injury or other trauma that may have caused a TBI, you need to get medical care as soon as possible. To make a diagnosis, you need to see your doctor right away. They will ask about your symptoms and the details of your injury. A neurologic exam and imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI may follow. They will conduct tests to measure your ability to open your eyes, speak, and move.

Psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse can occur and worsen drastically if a brain injury goes untreated. 

Frequent headaches are very common after a traumatic brain injury. If memory issues and brain fog are longer-lasting, doctors may do neuropsychological tests to check how your brain is functioning. 

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