Traumatic brain injuries: The long-term effects | Allen and Allen

Traumatic brain injuries: The long-term effects

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is damage to the brain resulting from a sudden injury – whether it’s a jolt, bump, or blow to the head. It’s also known as a “closed-head injury,” although a traumatic brain injury can still result when an object penetrates the skull, (also known as a “penetrating injury”).

woman with a head injury in bed

 What can cause a traumatic brain injury?

Causes of traumatic brain can include:

  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Falls
  • Assaults

What happens after you’ve had a brain injury?

After a sudden injury to the brain, the brain typically works immediately to repair any internal damage or injury to brain tissue. In fact, one-third of brain injury patients recover with only short-lived symptoms. Within the first six months, they typically return to almost normal pre-injury brain and body function.

However, the remaining two-thirds of brain injury patients do not recover as quickly. Sometimes, they do not ever recover fully. For those patients, there is long-term or lifetime damage to the brain that can last for years after the injury occurred. Secondary complications can last just as long. And in some cases, brain injury symptoms are not onset at the time of the injury but arise later. Each year, 80,000-90,000 people experience the onset of long-term or lifelong disabilities associated with a TBI.

Asian woman with a headache

After a traumatic brain injury occurs, TBI patients may face physical, emotional, and/or social problems. The issues can last for a few days or up to the rest of their lives, depending on how severe of an injury they sustained. For those patients suffering long-term disabilities associated with TBI, they may require ongoing care to help with their recovery.

For patients who have sustained a moderate or severe TBI, the social, emotional, financial, and physical consequences sometimes lead to long-term or life-long health problems, and ongoing medical care. The issue is frequently described as being similar to the effects of a chronic disease.

In addition, the lifetime economic cost of all traumatic brain injuries, including direct and indirect medical costs, was estimated to be approximately $76.5 billion (in 2010 dollars).

What are some of the long-term physical effects of traumatic brain injuries?

Common long-term physical effects of a TBI include, but are not limited to:

  • Blurred vision/visual difficulties
  • Car sickness or motion sickness
  • Change or loss in taste/smell
  • Difficulty reading
  • Memory loss
  • Heartbeat or blood pressure irregularities
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Short term memory problems
  • Difficulty with executive function
  • Tiredness for no reason
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Degenerative brain disease

deoressed man at desk

What are some of the long-term mental health and emotional effects of traumatic brain injuries?

Common long-term mental health and emotional effects of a TBI include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Personality (mood) changes/mood swings
  • Difficulty controlling impulses
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding things
  • Loss of focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Getting lost
  • Low energy 

What are some of the long-term social and relationship consequences of traumatic brain injuries?

Common long-term social and relationship consequences of a TBI include, but are not limited to:

  • Higher likelihood of death
  • Lower rates of employment
  • Reduced participation in activities
  • Overall lower quality of life

doctor explaining a TBI to patientAlso disturbing are the potential long-term effects of a TBI suffered during childhood, when a child’s brain is still in development. If a child receives a TBI of any severity, it may disrupt his or her emotional, intellectual, or social development, or limit his or her participation in sports.

The consequences of TBIs can also impact a child’s health, thinking, and in particular learning and impulse control abilities. It is also important to consider the social impacts of TBIs on children, as stunted social participation can have lifelong effects during a key time in growing and developing into a productive adult.

Any time the brain sustains an injury, there is cause for concern. Fortunately, not all TBIs result in serious or long-lasting damage.

How to best avoid a traumatic brain injury

Be smart and safe – do your best to avoid any injury to the head if possible, by practicing the following preventative measures:

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Do not text or use a cell phone while driving.
  • Do not text or use a cell phone while walking.
  • Wear a helmet while playing sports.
  • Prevent falls at home by installing handrails, removing tripping hazards, improving lighting in your home, and using non-slip mats where appropriate.
  • Get regular eye exams.

Remember that if you do receive any type of head injury, promptly seek medical treatment if that injury concerns you or causes behavioral changes, so that your condition can be evaluated.

If you or a loved one have been impacted by a traumatic brain injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or other serious incident through no fault of your own, Allen & Allen may be able to help. Call today for a free consultation at 804-353-1200.