Concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. The terms mild brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), minor head trauma, and concussion may be used interchangeably, although the latter is often treated as a narrower category.
The term "concussion" has been used for centuries and is still commonly used in sports medicine, while 'MTBI' is a technical term used more commonly nowadays in general medical contexts. Frequently defined as a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function, concussion can cause a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms.
Concussions range in significance from minor to major, but they all share one common factor "they temporarily interfere with the way your brain works. They can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and coordination.
At least 41 systems exist to measure the severity, or grade, of a mild head injury, and there is little agreement among professionals about which is the best. Several of the systems use loss of consciousness and amnesia as the primary determinants of the severity of the concussion.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussion:
Some people have obvious symptoms of a concussion (such as passing out or feeling lightheaded), while others do not.
Cognitive symptoms include confusion, disorientation, and difficulty focusing attention. Loss of consciousness may occur but is not necessarily correlated with the severity of the concussion if it is brief.
Post-traumatic amnesia, in which the person cannot remember events leading up to the injury or after it, or both, is a hallmark of concussion.
Confusion, another concussion hallmark, may be present immediately or may develop over several minutes. A patient may, for example, repeatedly ask the same questions, be slow to respond to questions or directions, have a vacant stare, or have slurred or incoherent speech. Other MTBI symptoms include changes in sleeping patterns and difficulty with reasoning, concentrating, and performing everyday activities.
Headache is the most common MTBI symptom. Other symptoms include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, lack of motor coordination, difficulty balancing, or other problems with movement or sensation. Visual symptoms include light sensitivity, seeing bright lights, blurred vision, and double vision. Tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, is also commonly reported. In 1 in about 70 concussions, concussive convulsions occur, but these are not actual post-traumatic seizures and are not predictive of post-traumatic epilepsy, which results from structural brain damage.
Occasionally a person who has a more serious concussion develops new symptoms over time and feels worse than he or she did before the injury. This is called post-concussive syndrome. If you have symptoms of post-concussive syndrome, call your doctor.
Symptoms of post-concussive syndrome include:
Changes in your sex drive.
Headaches or blurry vision.
Lack of interest in your usual activities.
Changes in your ability to think, concentrate, or remember.
Changes in your personality such as becoming angry or anxious for no clear reason.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness that makes standing or walking difficult.
Changes in your sleep patterns, such as not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time.
Treatment for Concussion:
Observation to monitor for worsening condition is an important part of treatment. About 1% of people who receive treatment for MTBI need surgery for a brain injury. Traditionally, concussion sufferers are prescribed rest, including plenty of sleep at night plus rest during the day. Health care providers recommend a gradual return to normal activities at a pace that does not cause symptoms to worsen.
Treatment involves monitoring and rest. Symptoms of concussion usually go away within 3 weeks, though they may persist, or complications may occur. Repeated concussions can cause cumulative brain damage such as dementia pugilistica or severe complications such as second impact syndrome.
Because of the small chance of permanent brain problems, it is important to contact a doctor if you or someone you know has symptoms of a concussion.
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