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Signs You Had Brain Trauma and Don't Know It

Brain health is a critical piece of your overall health.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior. Brain health is a critical piece of your overall health. It underlies your ability to communicate, make decisions, problem-solve and live a productive and useful life. Because the brain controls so much of daily function, it is arguably the single most valuable organ in the human body. Just like there are recommendations to help your body get healthier, there are similar recommendations for brain health. Exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition are the cornerstones of brain health. If left undiagnosed, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can have a variety of long-term effects on your overall physical health, mental wellness, and cognitive ability. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Here is What You Could Feel After Suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury

Woman hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness with motion

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) affect the lives of people of all ages. Anyone can experience a TBI, but data suggest that some groups are at greater risk of dying from a TBI or experiencing long-term health problems after the injury. 64,000 TBI-related deaths were reported in the United States in 2020. That's about 176 TBI-related deaths every day.

Traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later. TBI is broken into 2 major large categories, mTBI or mild traumatic brain injury and Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries.

The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Insomnia

These are normally transient and improve with proper treatment and targeted physical therapy.


Here is What You Could Feel After Suffering a Moderate Brain Injury

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include any of the signs and symptoms of mild injury, as well as these symptoms that may appear within the first hours to days after a head injury:

  • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
  • Persistent headache or headache that worsens
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes

These symptoms normally point to a more sinister or structural issue in the brain like a potential bleed.


You Feel Confused or Disoriented for Longer Time

Pensioner reading message on mobile phone

Other signs that a person may have undiagnosed trauma is as follows. They may not have had loss of consciousness, but they continue to be in a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented. They may find that they have memory or concentration problems.

Mood changes like feeling depressed or anxious. Insomnia is also very prevalent among patient with undiagnosed trauma as well as sleeping more than usual.


You Have Frequent Headaches

Woman sitting on bed and holding head in her hands.

Frequent headaches are very common after a traumatic brain injury. They may begin within a week after the injury and could persist for as long as several months. Patients can experience vertigo, a condition characterized by dizziness, after a traumatic brain injury.

Sometimes, any or several of these symptoms might linger for a few weeks to a few months after a traumatic brain injury. When a combination of these symptoms lasts for an extended period of time, this is generally referred to as persistent post-concussive symptoms.


You Feel Agitated

Offended woman sitting back to lover looking away avoiding talking

A red flag when someone has undiagnosed trauma is agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior. Slurred speech that leads to coma and other disorders of consciousness may follow. It is recommended to get evaluated right after someone sustains a head a injury to be properly evaluated. The first thing doctors will do is stabilize you to prevent further injury. They will manage your blood pressure, check the pressure inside your skull, and make sure that there is enough blood and oxygen getting to your brain.

For mild TBI, the main treatment is rest. If you have a headache, you can try taking over-the-counter pain relievers. It is important to follow your health care provider's instructions for complete rest and a gradual return to your normal activities. If you start doing too much too soon, it may take longer to recover.


Your Senses are "Not Right"

Annoyed woman cranky on laptop

You may have sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell. Due to the brain being in a healing state, you can have sensitivity to light or sound. You may have cognitive, behavioral or mental symptoms. All of this can point to prolonged symptoms of your mTBI or TBI. At this point targeted exam and treatments will be required to help you heal.


What You Should Do if You Notice These Signs?

Radiologist looking at the MRI scan images.

If you have a head injury or other trauma that may have caused a TBI, you need to get medical care as soon as possible. To make a diagnosis, you need to see you doctor right away. They will ask about your symptoms and the details of your injury. A neurologic exam and imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI may follow. They will conduct tests to measure your ability to open your eyes, speak, and move.


Last Word From Doctor


Psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse can occur and worsen drastically if a brain injury goes untreated. Headaches. Frequent headaches are very common after a traumatic brain injury. If memory issues and brain fog are longer-lasting, doctors may do neuropsychological tests to check how your brain is functioning. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Shae Datta, MD, co-director, NYU Langone's Concussion Center, and director of cognitive neurology at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island.

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