A concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs when excessive force or trauma is applied to the head. Millions of concussions occur in children, adolescents, and adults every year in the United States. Concussions can occur when engaging in strenuous physical activities, such as high-contact sports, or from a vehicle accident. However, concussions also frequently occur from falling during normal life activities. Concussions can be mild or quite severe, and if left untreated, can cause further health problems. While most people fully recover from the effects of a concussion, it is always important to take it seriously and receive professional medical care.
What Are the Symptoms of a Concussion?
The exact symptoms of a concussion will vary by person and the severity of the injury. It is important to note that some symptoms may not manifest right away and could take up to several days to appear. If you suspect you or a loved one may have a concussion, look for signs of the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Confusion and/or memory loss
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Poor balance
- Sleep disruption
- Slurred speech
- Ringing in the ears
- Numbness in limbs
- Unusual behavior
What to Do If You Suspect a Concussion
If you or a loved one has received a potentially traumatic blow to the head and you suspect a concussion is possible, there are several important first steps to take. First, it is important to cease any activities that could cause further harm or put you at risk, such as continued physical activity or driving a car. Second, you should not be left alone during the first 24 hours after the injury. Many symptoms will not manifest right away and it is important not to risk the loss of consciousness or sudden illness while alone.
It is always wise to seek out an evaluation by a medical professional after a head injury, even if you suspect the damage is mild. A medical professional will be able to evaluate and determine any potential complications you may face based on your personal medical history. Intentional rest and a break from everyday activities should begin even before seeking medical help. If symptoms appear to be more severe, seek emergency medical care immediately. Receiving a medical evaluation is especially important for young children as they may not be able to accurately communicate symptoms they are experiencing.
How Is a Concussion Diagnosed?
There is no singular test to determine a concussion. Your doctor will evaluate your particular injury, symptoms, and medical history to determine a diagnosis and treatment. In the case of a more traumatic injury, the doctor may request an MRI or CT scan to ensure there is no severe damage to the brain. If there is any bleeding or swelling of the brain, surgery or other more intense treatment may be required. A doctor may also examine your neck and spine to rule out any additional injuries.
How Is a Concussion Treated?
Just as there is no singular test for a concussion, there is no singular treatment. Your doctor will outline a treatment plan to address your specific injury and symptoms. Follow up with your doctor during your recovery if symptoms worsen or you are not seeing improvement.
Rest, both physical and mental, is one of the primary treatments for any concussion. Your brain needs time to recover and heal. Allow for plenty of sleep at night and takes naps during the day, if needed. Minimize any mental strain by avoiding activities such as reading, looking at screens, studying, and driving. Stay in tune with your body and work to identify and minimize triggers that cause your symptoms to increase or worsen. If you are working or a student, your doctor may recommend taking some time off to recover. If a repeat injury occurs before your original concussion has healed, the symptoms and lasting damage may increase. Athletes should be cleared by a doctor before resuming participation in training or playing.
Medications may be used to control headaches or nausea. However, it is crucial to consult with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication, as some medications may cause symptoms to worsen.
How Can You Prevent the Risk of Concussion?
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There are many simple things you can do to prevent the risk of concussion. If you are participating in sports or recreational activities that could lead to an injury, make sure you are wearing all appropriate protective equipment. You should always wear helmets or other protective headgear for activities like cycling or snowboarding. Wearing a seatbelt, utilizing childproof gates around stairwells, maintaining proper lighting, and keeping floors clean and free of obstructions are a few examples of basic things you can do in everyday life to reduce the risk of accidents and injury. Many concussions are due to falling, so reducing distractions, such as headphones or screens, and being aware of your surroundings may reduce your risk of an accident occurring. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and staying hydrated are always a good idea for increasing body strength, mental focus, and overall health.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Concussion?
Most concussions heal within a few days or weeks, but sometimes lasting complications may occur. Post-concussive syndrome is when symptoms of the concussion, such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, or trouble sleeping continue past the typical point of recovery. Vertigo is another common side effect of a concussion or head injury that may last for several months. A person experiencing post-concussive syndrome may show signs of change in temperament, such as anxiety, depression, or irritability. Mental health is as important as physical health, so it is imperative not to ignore these symptoms and seek professional help.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one are experiencing signs of post-concussive syndrome, contact us today for an evaluation. The experts at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights are experienced in evaluating and treating concussions and are ready to help you reach a full recovery.