An acquired brain injury is damage to the brain acquired after birth. It usually affects cognitive, physical, emotional, social or independent functioning and can result from traumatic brain injury (i.e. accidents, falls, assaults, etc.) and non-traumatic brain injury (i.e. stroke, brain tumors, infection, poisoning, hypoxia, ischemia or substance abuse). Most definitions of ABI exclude neurodegenerative disorders. Acquired brain injury is not to be confused with intellectual disability. People with a brain injury may have difficulty controlling, coordinating and communicating their thoughts and actions but they usually retain their intellectual abilities.
Brain injury has dramatically varied effects and no two people can expect the same outcome or resulting difficulties. The brain controls every part of human life: physically, intellectually, behaviorally, socially and emotionally. When the brain is damaged, some other part of a person's life will also be adversely affected. Even a mild injury can sometimes result in a serious disability that will interfere with a person’s daily functioning and personal activities for the rest of their life. While the outcome of the injury depends largely on the nature and severity of the injury itself, appropriate treatment will play a vital role in determining the level of recovery.
Traumatic brain injury is usually the result of a sudden, violent blow to the head — which launches the brain on a collision course with the inside of the skull. This collision can bruise the brain, tear nerve fibers and cause bleeding.
Traumatic brain injury may also be caused by objects such as bullets or even a shattered piece of the skull entering brain tissue.
The severity of traumatic brain injury can vary greatly, depending on the part of the brain affected and the extent of the damage. A mild traumatic brain injury may cause temporary confusion and headache, but a serious one can be fatal.
Your brain controls your movements, behaviors, thoughts and sensations, so a traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. The immediate physical effects include bruising and swelling. When injured brain tissue swells up, it creates a second, delayed problem — pressure. As the injured tissue expands, it pushes against the skull with increasing force and causes additional damage.
The signs and symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) may include: A brief period of unconsciousness, amnesia for events immediately before and after the injury, headache, confusion, dizziness or loss of balance, sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth, mood changes, and memory or concentration problems
If the injury is moderate to severe, the list of signs and symptoms grows to include: persistent headache, Repeated vomiting or nausea, Convulsions or seizures, Inability to awaken from sleep, Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, Slurred speech, Weakness or numbness in the extremities, Loss of coordination, Profound confusion, Agitation, combativeness.
Children with brain injuries may lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and similar symptoms. Instead, they may refuse to eat, appear listless and cranky, experience altered sleep patterns and school performance, and lose interest in favorite toys or activities.
To stay on the safe side, you should always get checked by a doctor if you have suffered a blow to the head. You should seek emergency medical care if signs and symptoms include: convulsions, weakness or numbness in the extremities, repeated vomiting, and slurred speech.
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