A Closer Look at Brain Injuries

Brain Injury Awareness Month

Because our brain is central to everything we do in life, anything that limits the capacity of our brain to function at less than optimal levels has the potential to drastically impact our lives. Each area of our brain controls a specific function, or group of functions. So one of the key factors that identifies how a brain injury will manifest itself is the specific location of the brain injury.

There are two over-arching types of brain injuries. These are Traumatic Brain Injury and Non-Traumatic Brain Injury. Traumatic Brain Injury is caused by trauma, also known as some form of impact, where the force exerted against some portion of our head exceeds our body’s natural capacity to deal with that force. Non-Traumatic Brain Injury is a term that covers the many different means outside of an external impact that can damage our brain.

It is estimated that about 1,000,000 people per year visit the emergency room (A&E) for head injuries. Traumatic Brain Injury is caused by events such as vehicle accidents, physical assaults, injury acquired while playing sport, and falls. A feeling of sickness and/or dizziness may be a side effect of this injury. A mild Traumatic Brain Injury is also known as a concussion while a period between 15 minutes and six hours of loss of consciousness or a period of up to 24 hours of post-trauma amnesia would indicate a moderate Traumatic Brain Injury. Durations exceeding those just mentioned above would indicate a severe Traumatic Brain Injury.

Physical after effects of this type of injury may include symptoms such as balance issues, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. Cognitive issues could include memory loss. Emotional issues such as anger could follow as well. The force and location of the injury will play a major factor on what symptoms manifest themselves and everyone in the patient’s support circle should be aware of these possibilities in order to protect the patient and themselves.

There are many things that can cause a Non-Traumatic Brain Injury. A few examples would include brain aneurysm, brain hemorrhage, brain tumor, an stroke. While these root causes appear less dramatic at onset, the damage that can potentially be done is no less impactful.

A cerebral aneurysm is the swell in the wall of a weakened blood vessel in the brain; like a blister. This will exert pressure on the surrounding tissue. Most often, this pressure will not present identifiable symptoms. The danger is that if/when the aneurysm bursts, catastrophic brain injury is possible.

A brain hemorrhage can be caused when a cerebral aneurysm bursts. This is also sometimes called a hemorrhage stroke or brain bleed. There are four different types brain hemorrhages.

  1. Subdural hemorrhage
  2. Extradural hemorrhage
  3. Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  4. Intracerebral hemorrhage

A brain tumor is an abnormal mass of cells within the skull.These cells are multiplying at a rate faster than normal body cells. Tumors or either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). Malignant (cancerous) tumors can spread to other parts of the body via the blood stream and/or the lymphatic system. Because this spreading can happen rapidly, early detection and early treatment are critical to recovery. Benign (non-cancerous) tumors do not migrate to other parts of the body, but they do continue to grow and that growth exerts pressure on the brain which can cause damage.

A stroke is an interruption of blood supply to some portion of the brain. It’s the oxygen in the blood that the brain needs. There are two different types of stroke. The hemorrhage stroke was noted in the brain hemorrhage section above. An ischemic stroke is one that is caused by a blood clot in a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. The symptoms of a stroke include:

  1. F-Face. Part of the person’s face starts to droop making it difficult for them to smile.
  2. A – Arms. The person cannot fully lift their arms.
  3. S – Speech. The person has difficulty with speech, often becoming slurred.
  4. T – Time. A person displaying these symptoms must receive immediate medical care to counteract the root cause of the issue and limit the damage to the brain to be as little as possible.

We reach out to our family and friends who have suffered this type of injury or who have had someone in their circle go through this experience. “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” – Dr. Michio Kaku

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