Whether suffered in a car accident, while playing a contact sport, because of a fall, or due to another reason, a head injury can be serious. If you have suffered a serious head injury, there are several things you should understand.
What Are Some Common Head Injuries?
Head injuries range from a small bump on the head or tiny scratch, which will heal quickly and have no lasting effects, to more brain injuries, which, especially if untreated, may have life-altering effects. Here are some common potentially serious head injuries:
- Brain hemorrhage
- Skull fracture
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
What Are the Symptoms?
One of the most obvious symptoms of a serious head injury is loss of consciousness. Generally, the longer the person loses consciousness, the more serious the injury. Anyone who loses consciousness, even for just a few seconds, due to a head injury should visit a doctor right away. Some other symptoms of a serious head injury include:
- Bleeding from the head, especially if it looks serious or persists
- Difficulty concentrating
- Long-term memory problems
- Short-term memory problems, including difficulty remembering right before or after the injury
- Chronic pain
- Confusion or slowed processing ability
- Nausea or vomiting
- Irritability or getting angry faster than usual
- Vision problems, including blurred vision or partial or total loss of sight
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sound
- Hearing loss or ringing in ears
- Balance or coordination problems
- Changes in sleep patterns, including sleeping more or less than usual
- Excessive drowsiness or loss of stamina
- Difficulty processing language (written and/or spoken)
- Changes in appetite
- Diminished sense of taste or smell
If the person has lost consciousness or is bleeding profusely from the head, call 911 or take the person to an emergency room right away.
When Will the Symptoms Appear?
While some people will start to experience the symptoms of a serious head injury right away, for others, the symptoms may not appear for a few days. Because of the serious nature of a head injury and the potential for lasting consequences, it is important to see a medical professional right away after suffering a serious blow to the head, even if you think you are feeling fine. The sooner the injury is assessed and treated, the better. Just because you have experienced little or no symptoms of a serious head injury does not mean you should brush off your head injury as nothing.
How Will I Be Treated for My Head Injury?
The treatment for your head injury will depend upon the seriousness of the injury. Generally, an MRI or x-rays, along with an assessment of the symptoms, will be required to determine the severity of the injury.
For a less-severe head injury, you may simply be told to take it easy for a few days and avoid things such as contact sports and other activities that may increase the symptoms. You may also be told to take pain medication. If there is a cut, the doctor will stitch it up. Even with what appears to be a less-severe head injury, the doctor may want to monitor the person at the hospital, waking the person up every couple of hours to monitor for new symptoms.
With a more serious head injury, surgery to repair the skull or to relieve pressure on the brain may be required. Patients suffering from a serious head injury may also be placed into a medically induced coma to allow the brain to heal better.
In some cases, rehabilitation for cognitive and physical abilities might be required to help the person function normally. The doctor will determine when this treatment is required.
Are There Lasting Effects?
While many people suffering from head injuries, including serious head injuries, will fully recover from them, others will suffer life-long damage to the brain, which may affect the person’s cognitive or physical abilities. A doctor (or multiple doctors) will usually work with the person to help the injured person recover as much as possible.