Traumatic Brain Injury 101: Side Effects and Treatment
Although popular culture doesn’t always acknowledge this fact, brain injuries are incredibly serious and require immediate medical attention. Whether it’s a simple concussion or an open head wound, a brain injury can lead to a range of long-term cognitive issues, such as memory loss, emotional instability, sleep disorders, and reduced motor control. These troubling symptoms can worsen if the injury isn’t treated properly, and promptly, from the start.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, our skilled brain injury lawyers are committed to helping injury victims get the recovery they need to heal. If you’ve been affected by a brain injury, you may have grounds to pursue a lawsuit against the negligent party, to ensure that you have enough funding for treatment.
Long-Term Side-Effects of a TBI
Whenever the human skull suffers from a traumatic blow, the brain tissue can become damaged, and some of the cells begin to die. Physicians categorize this type of damage as a traumatic brain injury or TBI, and it can be graded as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild TBIs are also called concussions and rarely prevent the individual from moving around, whereas more severe TBIs may involve long stretches without consciousness.
Regardless of the TBI’s severity, the physician will attempt to treat the acute symptoms first, and ensure that the patient is stable. Once the acute symptoms are managed, a patient with a mild or moderate TBI will usually head home, with instructions to watch for worsening symptoms. Of course, for many people, the injury doesn’t end there – and the side effects can continue for months or even years.
Some ongoing side-effects caused by a TBI include:
- Depression. A 2009 study in the Journal of Neurotrauma found that 52% of all TBI patients report major depressive disorder within the first year of their injury. Given that more than 1.4 million people suffer from brain injuries each year, that means more than half a million people may suffer from TBI-related depression.
- Reduced social functioning. Because it has the tendency to cause depression, a brain injury can also lead to reduced social interaction, and even a lowered ability to communicate with others. This reduction in social functioning can make injury victims feel incredibly isolated.
- Mood swings. While it may depend on what part of the brain is injured, many patients report emotional instability, irritability, and extreme mood swings after a brain injury. When damaged, the frontal lobe, which governs personality and impulse control, may no longer assist with emotional regulation.
- Dizziness and motor control issues. Our ability to balance can be dramatically affected by a brain injury, and the vast majority of brain injury patients report some degree of dizziness. Without the right physical therapy, some victims may have continued vertigo. Still others may not retain their fine motor skills and have difficulty performing certain physical tasks.
- Memory loss. Memory loss is one of the most consistent signs of a traumatic brain injury, and recent research has discovered a link between sustaining a TBI and developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. In some cases, the patient may also suffer from flashbacks and a sense of not really being present in reality.
Common Methods for Treating Brain Injuries
Recovery for brain injuries is almost always slow. The brain needs time to heal, and in many cases, the right kind of external stimulation to forge new connections. For some patients, that may only involve a few weeks of physical therapy; for others, proper treatment may involve years of psychotherapy, support group attendance, rehabilitation programs, and regular medical examinations.
Some of the most commonly recommended treatments for brain injuries include:
- Physical rehabilitation programs. If an individual has sustained a moderate or serious TBI, they will likely be transferred to a specialized rehabilitation center immediately after leaving the hospital, where specialists will help them focus on restoring both the body and the mind. There are also a number of outpatient rehabilitation programs that can give patients ongoing physical therapy in the months after their injury.
- Social support groups. Dealing with a brain injury can be painful and isolating, so physicians frequently recommend dedicated support groups. By discussing feelings in a safe setting and making new connections, injury victims can often strengthen their social functioning skills.
- Cognitive therapy. By “retraining” the brain, cognitive therapists will look to improve memory and learning skills in TBI patients. This is accomplished by repeating simple tasks and participating in learning games to restore brain capacity.
- Meditation and yoga practice. As greater awareness of the mind-body connection continues to grow, many doctors are recommending meditation and mindfulness techniques to help brain injury patients, especially those who are suffering from emotional issues. Some are even encouraging alternative physical therapies that involve yoga, and other holistic practices.
Do you need to speak with an attorney about the circumstances of your brain injury? Just call 561-899-2100 for a free consultation at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin.