Long-Term Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury
The long-term symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can differ based on the severity of the TBI. Mild injuries generate brief alterations in consciousness or mental status. Severe TBIs, on the other hand, can result in amnesia or long periods of unconsciousness.
In general, one might expect the following symptoms of a TBI:
- Cognitive impairment
- Sensory processing
- Communication challenges
- Mental health and behavior changes
TBIs are also known to lead to an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain other brain disorders.
The Effects of Repeated, Mild TBIs
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a TBI need not be severe to create dangerous long-term complications. Repetition of TBIs can be just as problematic. If you suffer repeated, mild TBIs over a long period of time, you could experience cumulative cognitive and neurological impairments. If you suffer repeated injuries of this sort in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, the results can be catastrophic, or even fatal.
Prognosis for Severe TBIs: Changes in Consciousness
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that around 50 percent of patients with severe TBI will require surgery to remove or repair ruptured blood vessels or bruised brain tissue. The severity and location of the injury, along with the general health and age of the patient will dictate any disabilities resulting from the TBI.
Among the most common injuries for severe TBI are:
- Unresponsive state from which the patient can briefly be aroused via a strong stimulus
- Coma, which renders the patient completely unconscious, unaware, unresponsive, and unarousable
- Vegetative state, in which the patient experiences unconsciousness and unawareness of surroundings, combined with a sleep-wake cycle and timespans of alertness
- Persistent vegetative state, whereby the patient remains in a vegetative state for longer than a month
- Brain death, an irreversible state where no activity in the brain or brainstem can be measured
Prognosis for TBI: Physical Complications
Besides the above conditions, TBI can also generate physical complications. According to Mayo Clinic, these complications can linger for weeks or even months after the traumatic event. Possible complications include the following:
- Infections in the brain, which can spread to the rest of the nervous system
- Frequent headaches
- Seizures, which can occur even years after the injury
- Blood vessel damage, which can develop into blood clots and lead to stroke
- Vertigo, a type of dizziness
- Hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain, which causes it to swell
Prognosis for TBI: Diminished Intellectual Abilities
When cognitive skills are impaired, as they are with some TBIs, the patient will struggle with focusing and will require more time to process thoughts. The cognitive damage, which affects judgment, learning, memory, reasoning, and attention, translates to suffering problems in the following aspects of everyday life:
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Starting or finishing tasks
Prognosis for TBI: Communication Difficulties
Perhaps one of the most frustrating effects of TBI that patients must endure is the challenges with basic communication skills. The results of these impairments can create serious difficulties at home, with family and friends.
TBI patients might have a hard time comprehending writing or speech and maybe even speaking and writing. They can struggle to organize their thoughts and can fall behind when trying to follow conversations.
Socially, these communication problems continue to trouble the TBI patient, who might experience difficulty reading social cues and nonverbal signals, grasping changes in tones, choosing things to talk about, and starting or stopping conversations.
Some patients also struggle with speaking, as they have lost the ability to use the muscles required to form words.
Prognosis for TBI: Behavioral and Emotional Changes
The emotional changes a TBI victim experiences (mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability) can combine with behavioral changes, like self-control problems, risk taking, and social awkwardness to further isolate the patient.
Prognosis for TBI: Sensory Problems
A broad range of sensory issues leaves the TBI patient in a constant state of discomfort and impaired abilities, compared with what they experienced before the event that caused their injury. These impairments could manifest as a difficulty in recognizing objects; managing eye-hand coordination; ringing in the ears; double vision or blind spots; tingling, painful, or itchy skin; difficulty detecting smells and dizziness often accompany these sensory problems.
Prognosis for TBI: Degenerative Brain Disease
TBI might be connected to the development of degenerative brain diseases that lead to gradual loss of brain functions, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease rel=””nofollow”, whereby the patient eventually loses the ability to think and remember
- Parkinson’s disease, another progressive ailment that causes tremors and slower movements; and
- Dementia pugilistica, a disease typically connected with repetitive blows to the head, as occurs in boxing.
The Ultimate Cost of TBI
When a person suffers TBI, their lives change—in the case of severe TBI, the changes can be devastating and permanent. Even in instances where surgery can alleviate the injury, such surgeries are incredibly expensive.
Given the effects reviewed here, it is easy to see how the effects of TBI would disable an individual from working, or certainly performing certain types of work that they might have done before the injury.
The pain and suffering for those who are aware of the impact is difficult to imagine, as is the emotional strain for family and loved ones who, in a sense, lose the person they once knew, and in many cases, now have to care for that person.
Common Events That Can Cause TBI
The following common events are commonly linked as a causal factor in patients with TBI:
- Falls: The most common cause of TBI, especially for older adults and young kids.
- Sports Injuries: Mostly from high-impact sports, like hockey, football, soccer, boxing, skateboarding, baseball, and lacrosse.
- Vehicle Collisions: Accidents involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
- Explosive Blasts: Common with active-duty military, perhaps resulting from a pressure wave traveling through the brain and disrupting its functioning; also, combat injuries involving shrapnel, falls, and penetrating wounds.
- Violence: Child abuse, domestic violence, assaults, shaken baby syndrome, and even gunshot wounds.
You Need Not Take on Every Aspect of TBI Alone
If you or a loved one suffered TBI, chances are you can receive compensation for your injury and all the economic, physical, and emotional damages that have come along with it.
The Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato can represent you and make sure you know your legal options. Our attorneys are honest, responsive, and caring. One of our brain injury lawyers will treat you like family. Call 954-633-8270 for a free case review with a TBI lawyer.