What is an Acquired Brain Injury?
An acquired brain injury is brain damage caused by events after birth, rather than as part of a genetic or congenital disorder. These include strokes, brain illness and other brain injuries. They differ from degenerative brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Some of the effects a brain injury can have include:
- Cognitive effects, such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor planning and judgment skills, language difficulties, and a lack of problem solving skills.
- Sensory effects, such as altered visual/spatial perception, altered sense of touch and hearing, or vision impairments.
- Emotional effects, such as being impulsive, risky behavior, depression/anxiety, aggression or paranoia.
- Physical effects, such as severe headaches, seizures, poor coordination and balance, slurred speech, and being unable to move.
Types of Acquired Brain Injury
There are two types of acquired brain injury.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury is caused by an external force that disrupts the normal function of the brain, such as a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury.
Common causes include:
- Falls from heights as well as slips, tumbles down steps, and losing balance.
- Being struck by or against something such as falling debris, being hit by a car, or violence.
- Motor vehicle crashes, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.
- Violence, such as domestic or gang violence, assault or shaken baby syndrome.
- Explosion or blast injury, especially among military service members.
Non-traumatic Brain Injury
This type of injury is caused by an internal event, rather than an external force.
Common causes include:
- Infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis.
- No oxygen or too little oxygen making it to the brain from causes such as near drowning, asphyxiation, strangulation or aspiration.
- Brain tumors.
- Exposure to toxins in cleaning products, pesticides, lead or mercury.
- Drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines, inhalants or MDMA.
All types of brain injury are serious and can be life altering. Recovery can often look identical between different types of brain injury. The real differentiation is how the brain injury happens.
How Common Are Brain Injuries?
Brain injury is one of the most common, yet least talked about, public health issues in Texas. Survivors and their families often struggle with the cognitive, behavioral and physical consequences of their injuries. Because disabilities resulting from brain injury often are not clear, brain injury is referred to as an invisible condition.
The number of people diagnosed with a brain injury each year is more than those diagnosed with Alzheimer's, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, prostate cancer, lung cancer and ALS combined.
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Injury
The signs and symptoms of a brain injury can be subtle. Symptoms can even be missed as people "look normal" or "feel fine." Don't be fooled — know the signs and symptoms and take brain injury seriously.
If someone's head or body has been hit or jolted, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room if they are experiencing:
- Confusion or disorientation.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Severe headache.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Blood or clear fluid draining from nose or ears.
- Weakness, numbness or tingling in limbs.
- Trouble walking.
- Slurred speech or vision issues.
Sometimes, symptoms might not appear until days, weeks or months after the injury. Continue to monitor for signs and symptoms, even if you don't observe any immediately. See a doctor if you notice any of these changes:
- Concentration and memory problems
- Changes in work/school performance
- Delayed thinking and understanding
- Poor balance and coordination
- Sleep disturbances or fatigue
- Ongoing headaches or neck pain
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Changes in personality and behavior
To learn more, contact the Office of Acquired Brain Injury at 512-706-7191 or by email.