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What are the signs of a brain injury after an accident?

In the moments after a motor vehicle accident, drivers and passengers will assess the situation to make sure no one is hurt. No wounds mean everyone is OK, right?

Unfortunately, car crashes can often cause injuries that aren't immediately identifiable - even for the injured person. One of the most common injuries that occurs after an accident is a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is a traumatic brain injury?

A TBI is one that results from a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body. An object does not need to penetrate the brain to be considered a TBI, and not all blows or jolts to the head will result in a TBI.

However, when a TBI does occur, these injuries can affect someone's brain cells temporarily or cause physical damage to the brain, which could lead to long-term complications or death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that TBIs contribute to roughly 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States.

Symptoms to look for

In the days or sometimes weeks after an accident, symptoms of a TBI will typically begin to present themselves. TBIs can range of severity and the symptoms typically align with the intensity of the injury.

A mild TBI may include physical, sensory and cognitive symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • A state of being dazed, confused, disoriented or dizzy
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings

A moderate or severe TBI has similar symptoms that are more severe, such as repeated nausea or vomiting or headaches that worsen. Other serious symptoms may include:

  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Weakness or numbness in the fingers and toes
  • An inability to wake from sleep
  • Loss of coordination
  • Profound confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior

Seeking medical attention for a brain injury

Accident victims who exhibit the above symptoms after an accident should consider seeking medical treatment for their pain, even if it seems like the symptoms are occurring long after the incident or feel insignificant. Being completely sure by visiting a doctor can make a big difference.

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