Brain Injuries: More than meets the eye

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Brain injuries can be revealed in a variety of ways. And since some symptoms might take a while to manifest themselves, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible after a blow to the head.

A traumatic brain injury, common in accident victims, soldiers and even athletes wearing protective headgear, happens when the head meets a force that exceeds its ability to resist injury. Whilst symptoms sometimes appear straight away, many develop over the course of a few days.

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Symptoms of brain injury are many and varied. Thought can be affected, as can perception and wakefulness. There might be physical head pain, whilst symptoms can appear in areas of the body physically unaffected by the original injury.

Most symptoms, of which a headache is the most common, take the form of physical pain. If the injury isn't severe this might be comparatively mild, but can steadily grow more intense until it becomes crippling, with fluids seeping from the nose or ears in particularly bad cases. Victims of brain trauma can lose consciousness and experience difficulty in focusing or concentrating. Memory and mood might be affected, and senses can give false information, such as a persistent buzzing. Seizures or co-ordination problems are also not uncommon.

In the long term, a serious brain injury might cause difficulties in concentrating and personality changes. Unusually deep sleep and general cognitive difficulty can also be symptoms of this condition.

Further symptoms can arise as a result of the brain's inability properly to regulate other bodily systems, such as the bowel or the bladder, whilst serious bouts of nausea are common. Numbness or tingling might strike the arms, legs, fingers and toes, and patients might find it hard to walk or to retain balance.

Phillip Gower of Simpson Millar LLP's Serious Injury Team stresses the need for anyone receiving a blow to the head to exercise extreme caution, regardless of circumstances and even if there seems to be no damage. "Since a brain injury isn't always immediately clear, anyone suffering head trauma should see a physician as soon as possible. This is especially important if an accident occurs at work, where there may be great pressures on employees to ignore apparently minor symptoms and simply get on with the job."


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