Dementia and Head Injury

If you or someone you’re with experiences an impact to the head and develops any symptoms of traumatic brain injury, seek medical advice even if symptoms seem mild. Call emergency services for anyone who is unconscious for more than a minute or two or who experiences seizures, repeated vomiting or symptoms that seem to worsen as time passes. Also seek emergency care for anyone whose head was injured during ejection from a vehicle, who was struck by a vehicle while on foot, or who fell from a height of more than 3 feet. Even if you don’t lose consciousness and your symptoms clear up quickly, a brain injury still may have occurred.A traumatic brain injury’s direct effects, which may be long-lasting or even permanent, can include unconsciousness, inability to recall the traumatic event, confusion, difficulty learning and remembering new information, trouble speaking coherently, unsteadiness, lack of coordination and problems with vision or hearing. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury for all ages. Those aged 75 and older have the highest rates of traumatic brain injury-related hospitalization and death due to falls.

Doctors classify traumatic brain injury as mild, moderate or severe, depending on whether the injury causes unconsciousness, how long unconsciousness lasts and the severity of symptoms. Although most traumatic brain injuries are classified as mild because they’re not life-threatening, even a mild traumatic brain injury can have serious and long-lasting effects. Traumatic brain injury results from an impact to the head that disrupts normal brain function. Traumatic brain injury may affect a person’s cognitive abilities, including learning and thinking skills. Head injury occurs when an outside force hits the head hard enough to cause the brain to move violently within the skull. This force can cause shaking, twisting, bruising (contusion), or sudden change in the movement of the brain (concussion).

In some cases, the skull can break. If the skull is not broken, the injury is a closed head injury. If the skull is broken, the injury is an open head injury.In
either case, the violent jarring of the brain damages brain tissue and tears nerves, blood vessels, and membranes.The severity of this damage depends on the location and force of the blow to the head. Damaged brain tissue does not work normally. The brain has many different functions in the body,
and any of them can be disrupted by this damage. Not all brain damage is permanent. Like all body organs, the brain can heal to a certain extent. Even this healing may not bring the brain’s function back to what it was before the injury. Even a relatively mild head injury can cause prolonged or permanent declines in cognition. (Cognition is the processes of thinking, remembering, understanding, reasoning, and communicating.) Head injury can also cause changes in emotions or behavior.

Together, these changes are known as dementia. The nature of dementia in head-injured persons varies greatly by type and location of head injury and the person’s characteristics before the head injury. After head injury, a person may have symptoms such as changes in personality, emotional problems, and difficulty making decisions or solving problems. Dementia involves damage of nerve cells in the brain, which may occur in several areas of the brain. Dementia may affect people differently, depending on the area of the brain affected. Dementias can be classified in a variety of ways and are often grouped by what they have in common, such as what part of the brain is affected, or whether they worsen over time (progressive dementias). Some dementias, such as those caused by a reaction to medications or an infection, are reversible with treatment.

 
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