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5 common questions about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)

Between 1.5 and 2 million Americans suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) every year, including many here in the Lehigh Valley area. If you or a loved one is among those people, you know how devastating a TBI can be. Perhaps you were injured in an accident, but you are not sure if you have a TBI. The most important thing to know about a TBI is that if you even suspect a brain injury, you should seek medical attention right away. Here are five common questions people ask about TBIs:

  1. How does a brain injury happen? When you are in an accident, whether a car crash, a fall or being struck in the head with an object, your head may connect with an object or just move quickly, like in whiplash. When your head is forced to one side quickly, your brain moves with it, until it runs into your skull on the other side of your head. Therefore, your brain suffers an injury both where it struck an object and the opposite side of your head.
  2. What are the symptoms of a TBI? Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some typical symptoms include chronic headaches, nausea and dizziness, tiredness, depression or mood swings and problems with memory or concentration. Some lose consciousness, have seizures or have vision problems.
  3. How severe is the injury? The severity of the injury is an important factor in everything from your treatment to your chances at a full recovery. There are many different types of brain injuries, but they are all put into three general categories of severity:
  • Mild. If your injury is mild, you probably only lost consciousness briefly, or not at all, but you are generally awake with mild symptoms.
  • Moderate. You probably feel very lethargic, and may have lost consciousness anywhere from 20 minutes to six hours. Your symptoms will be quite noticeable.
  • Severe. If you were unconscious for over six hours, your injury will probably be severe. You may also have symptoms like seizures and severe memory problems.
  • What kind of treatments existSome symptoms will pass with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Other symptoms may be long-term or permanent. Treatments are available, whatever the symptoms you face, and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, medication, and both physical and mental rest. In severe cases such as a coma, doctors may need to take extreme measures to treat the injury and keep the person alive, including surgery to reduce swelling on the brain.
  • Is it permanent? TBIs can be either temporary or permanent. It may depend on the severity of the injury or how quickly you get treatment. Most symptoms will improve with time, but some may never go away entirely. Your doctor will help you understand what kind of long-term support you may need.
  • If you or a loved one has a TBI, support and treatment do exist. Most injuries will improve with treatment and time. If someone else’s negligence caused your injury, you may have a personal injury claim.