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How Do I Know If a Head Injury Is Severe?

By Butler Prather LLP on January 18, 2019

Head injuries can be a major cause of concern. Serious trauma can lead to internal bleeding, coma, brain damage, and even death if left untreated. The majority of head injuries are not serious and require minimal medical treatment. However, a head injury can quickly turn into a serious medical emergency if left untreated. Knowing the signs of a severe head injury can help you avoid severe complications.

What is a Head Injury?

Medical professionals define “head injury” as any trauma to the brain, skull, or scalp. Head injuries range in severity from a small bump to traumatic, severe, and life-altering brain damage. The most common head injuries include concussions, scalp wounds, and fractures. Damage to the skull can be difficult to assess from the outside – many head injuries involve internal injuries.

Doctors classify these injuries into “open” or “closed” categories. Closed head injuries do not cause breaks or fractures in your skull. Open head injuries are much more serious, breaking the skull and causing trauma to the brain.

What are the Symptoms of a Head Injury?

Head injury symptoms vary from person to person based on the circumstances of the accident. Minor head injuries will involve milder symptoms than more severe trauma. If you suffer a minor head injury, you can experience these common symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Lightheadedness

The symptoms of severe head injuries include many minor symptoms, along with additional alarming complications:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Memory loss
  • Balance problems
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Mood swings
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache
  • Clear fluid leakage from the ears and nose
  • Uncontrollable eye movements
  • Trouble focusing eyes

When Should You See a Doctor for a Head Injury?

You should seek medical attention for all head injuries that might be serious. Certain symptoms require immediate doctor intervention. Waiting too long to seek help for a head injury could lead to permanent brain damage, coma, or death.

Visit your doctor or emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion

If the symptoms persist after a day and you still have not visited a medical professional, visit a hospital immediately. Always call 911 for a serious head injury – waiting too long, moving, or engaging in strenuous activity can increase damage to your brain.

Major Types of Head Injuries

Common head injuries can lead to brain damage, loss of motion, and additional injuries. Each type of head injury comes with a certain set of risks, injuries, and treatment options.

  • Diffuse axonal injuries occur when a head injury causes damage to the brain cells. The cells swell, causing additional damage to the brain the longer you wait to seek treatment. If left alone, diffuse axonal injuries can lead to permanent damage and death.
  • Concussions are some of the more common types of injuries, but they are quite serious. These injuries occur when you receive a force to your head so hard that a brain injury develops. Concussion injuries are temporary, but repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage.
  • Edema is the medical term for swelling in the brain. Since the skull cannot accommodate brain swelling, edema can lead to painful pressure buildup. This pressure can lead to permanent brain damage.
  • Hematoma occurs when blood clots form outside of the vessels in the brain. Like edema, hematoma can lead to intense pressure buildup in the brain and skull. Untreated hematoma can lead to permanent brain damage or loss of consciousness.
  • Skull fractures can be extremely serious. Skull fractures usually indicate that underlying brain damage is present, since the skull is a difficult and strong bone to break.
  • Hemorrhage is a medical term for uncontrollable bleeding. You can experience bleeding in the brain tissue or in the space around the brain. Over time, blood will build up in the brain and cause increased pressure.

Treatments for traumatic head injuries can be expensive and lengthy. In addition, you could experience permanent disability and a loss of quality of life. If you suffered a serious head injury from an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, visit an attorney to discuss potential legal action.

Posted in: Head Injury

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