Traumatic Brain Injury
What is traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a sudden injury that causes damage to the brain. It may happen when there is a blow, bump, or jolt to the head. This is a closed head injury. A TBI can also happen when an object penetrates the skull. This is a penetrating injury.
Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. Concussions are a type of mild TBI. The effects of a concussion can sometimes be serious, but most people completely recover in time. More severe TBI can lead to serious physical and psychological symptoms, coma, and even death.
What causes traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
The main causes of TBI depend on the type of head injury:
- Some of the common causes of a closed head injury include
- Falls. This is the most common cause in adults age 65 and older.
- Motor vehicle crashes. This is the most common cause in young adults.
- Sports injuries
- Being struck by an object
- Child abuse. This is the most common cause in children under age 4.
- Blast injuries due to explosions
- Some of the common causes of a penetrating injury include
- Being hit by a bullet or shrapnel
- Being hit by a weapon such as a hammer, knife, or baseball bat
- A head injury that causes a bone fragment to penetrate the skull
Some accidents such as explosions, natural disasters, or other extreme events can cause both closed and penetrating TBI in the same person.
Who is at risk for traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
Certain groups are at higher risk of TBI:
- Men are more likely to get a TBI than women. They are also more likely to have serious TBI.
- Adults aged 65 and older are at the greatest risk for being hospitalized and dying from a TBI
What are the symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
The symptoms of TBI depend on the type of injury and how serious the brain damage is.
The symptoms of mild TBI can include:
- A brief loss of consciousness in some cases. However, many people with mild TBI remain conscious after the injury.
- Blurred vision or tired eyes
- Ringing in the ears
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Fatigue or lethargy
- A change in sleep patterns
- Behavioral or mood changes
- Trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking
If you have a moderate or severe TBI, you may have those same symptoms. You may also have other symptoms such as:
- A headache that gets worse or does not go away
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- Not being able to wake up from sleep
- Larger than normal pupil (dark center) of one or both eyes. This is called dilation of the pupil.
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the arms and legs
- Loss of coordination
- Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation
How is traumatic brain injury (TBI) diagnosed?
If you have a head injury or other trauma that may have caused a TBI, you need to get medical care as soon as possible. To make a diagnosis, your health care provider:
- Will ask about your symptoms and the details of your injury
- Will do a neurologic exam
- May do imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI
- May use a tool such as the Glasgow coma scale to determine how severe the TBI is. This scale measures your ability to open your eyes, speak, and move.
- May do neuropsychological tests to check how your brain is functioning
What are the treatments for traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
The treatments for TBI depend on many factors, including the size, severity, and location of the brain injury.
For mild TBI, the main treatment is rest. If you have a headache, you can try taking over-the-counter pain relievers. It is important to follow your health care provider's instructions for complete rest and a gradual return to your normal activities. If you start doing too much too soon, it may take longer to recover. Contact your provider if your symptoms are not getting better or if you have new symptoms.
For moderate to severe TBI, the first thing health care providers will do is stabilize you to prevent further injury. They will manage your blood pressure, check the pressure inside your skull, and make sure that there is enough blood and oxygen getting to your brain.
Once you are stable, the treatments may include:
- Surgery to reduce additional damage to your brain, for example to
- Remove hematomas (clotted blood)
- Get rid of damaged or dead brain tissue
- Repair skull fractures
- Relieve pressure in the skull
- Medicines to treat the symptoms of TBI and to lower some of the risks associated with it, such as
- Anti-anxiety medication to lessen feelings of nervousness and fear
- Anticoagulants to prevent blood clots
- Anticonvulsants to prevent seizures
- Antidepressants to treat symptoms of depression and mood instability
- Muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms
- Stimulants to increase alertness and attention
- Rehabilitation therapies, which can include therapies for physical, emotional, and cognitive difficulties:
- Physical therapy, to build physical strength, coordination, and flexibility
- Occupational therapy, to help you learn or relearn how to perform daily tasks, such as getting dressed, cooking, and bathing
- Speech therapy, to help you to with speech and other communication skills and treat swallowing disorders
- Psychological counseling, to help you learn coping skills, work on relationships, and improve your emotional well-being
- Vocational counseling, which focuses on your ability to return to work and deal with workplace challenges
- Cognitive therapy, to improve your memory, attention, perception, learning, planning, and judgment
Some people with TBI may have permanent disabilities. A TBI can also put you at risk for other health problems such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Treating these problems can improve your quality of life.
Can traumatic brain injury (TBI) be prevented?
There are steps you can take to prevent head injuries and TBIs:
- Always wear your seatbelt and use car seats and booster seats for children
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Wear a properly fitting helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboarding, and playing sports like hockey and football
- Prevent falls by
- Making your house safer. For example, you can install railings on the stairs and grab bars in the tub, get rid of tripping hazards, and use window guards and stair safety gates for young children.
- Improving your balance and strength with regular physical activity
What is aphasia?
Aphasia is a language disorder that makes it hard for you to read, write, and say what you mean to say. Sometimes it makes it hard to understand what other people are saying, too. Aphasia is not a disease. It's a symptom of damage to the parts of the brain that control language.
The signs of aphasia depend on which part of the brain is damaged. There are four main types of aphasia:
- Expressive aphasia is when you know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing your thoughts.
- Receptive aphasia affects your ability to read and understand speech. You can hear what people say or see words on a page, but you have trouble making sense of what they mean.
- Global aphasia is the loss of almost all language ability. You can't speak, understand speech, read, or write.
- Anomic or amnesia aphasia is when you have trouble using the right words for certain things, people, places or events.
In some cases, aphasia may get better on its own. But it can be a long-term condition. There's no cure, but treatment may help improve language skills.
What causes aphasia?
Aphasia happens from damage to one or more parts of the brain involved with language. The damage may be from:
- Stroke, which is the most common cause of aphasia
- Brain tumor
- Brain infection or inflammation
- Brain injury
- Other brain disorders or neurologic diseases that affect the brain and get worse over time, such as dementia
Who is more likely to develop aphasia?
Anyone can have aphasia at any age, but most people with aphasia are middle-aged or older. Most aphasia happens suddenly from a stroke or brain injury. Aphasia from a brain tumor or other brain disorder may develop slowly over time.
How is aphasia diagnosed?
If a health care provider sees signs of aphasia, the provider will usually:
- Test the person's ability to understand language and speech. This includes asking questions and checking to see if the person can follow simple commands.
- Order an imaging scan to see if there's a brain injury and what part of the brain is damaged. Possible tests include:
If imaging shows signs of aphasia, more tests may be needed. These tests measure how much the brain damage has affected the ability to talk, read, write, and understand. In most cases, the tests are done by a speech-language pathologist or speech therapist (a specialist who treats speech and communication disorders).
What are the treatments for aphasia?
Some people fully recover from aphasia without treatment. But most people should begin speech-language therapy to treat aphasia as soon as possible.
Treatment may be one-on-one with a speech therapist or in a group. Therapy using a computer may also be helpful.
The specific therapy depends on the type of language loss that a person has. It may include exercises in reading, writing, following directions, and repeating what the therapist says. Therapy may also include learning how to communicate with gestures, pictures, smartphones, or other electronic devices.
Family participation may be an important part of speech therapy. Family members can learn to help with recovery in many ways, such as:
- Using simpler language
- Including the person with aphasia in conversations
- Repeating or writing down key words to help communicate more clearly
How much a person recovers depends on many things, including:
- What caused the brain injury
- What part of the brain was hurt
- How badly and how much of the brain was hurt
- The age and health of the person
Can aphasia be prevented?
You can help prevent aphasia by:
- Making heart-healthy lifestyle changes to lower your chance of having:
- A stroke
- Heart disease
- Vascular disease (problems with your blood vessels)
- Protecting your brain from injury:
- Wearing the right helmet for sports safety, such as when riding a bike
- Taking action to prevent falls
- Always wearing your seatbelt and driving safely
NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Arm Injuries and Disorders
Of the 206 bones in your body, three of them are in your arm: the humerus, radius, and ulna. Your arms are also made up of muscles, joints, tendons, and other connective tissue. Injuries to any of these parts of the arm can occur during sports, a fall, or an accident.
Types of arm injuries include :
- Tendinitis and bursitis
- Fractures (broken bones)
- Nerve problems
You may also have problems or injure specific parts of your arm, such as your hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that can cause intense mood swings:
- Sometimes you may feel extremely "up," elated, irritable, or energized. This is called a manic episode.
- Other times you may feel "down," sad, indifferent, or hopeless. This is called a depressive episode.
- You may have both manic and depressive symptoms together. This is called a mixed episode.
Along with mood swings, bipolar disorder causes changes in behavior, energy levels, and activity levels.
Bipolar disorder used to be called other names, including manic depression and manic-depressive disorder.
What are the types of bipolar disorder?
There are three main types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I disorder involves manic episodes that last at least 7 days or manic symptoms so severe that you need immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes are also common. Those often last at least two weeks. This type of bipolar disorder can also involve mixed episodes.
- Bipolar II disorder involves depressive episodes. But instead of full-blown manic episodes, there are episodes of hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe version of mania.
- Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, also involves hypomanic and depressive symptoms. But they are not as intense or as long-lasting as hypomanic or depressive episodes. The symptoms usually last for at least two years in adults and for one year in children and teenagers.
With any of these types, having four or more episodes of mania or depression in a year is called "rapid cycling."
What causes bipolar disorder?
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Several factors likely play a role in the disorder. They include genetics, brain structure and function, and your environment.
Who is at risk for bipolar disorder?
You are at higher risk for bipolar disorder if you have a close relative who has it. Going through trauma or stressful life events may raise this risk even more.
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary. But they involve mood swings known as mood episodes:
- The symptoms of a manic episode can include
- Feeling very up, high, or elated
- Feeling jumpy or wired, more active than usual
- Having a very short temper or seeming extremely irritable
- Having racing thoughts and talking very fast
- Needing less sleep
- Feeling like you are unusually important, talented, or powerful
- Do risky things that show poor judgment, such as eating and drinking too much, spending or giving away a lot of money, or having reckless sex
- The symptoms of a depressive episode can include
- Feeling very sad, hopeless, or worthless
- Feeling lonely or isolating yourself from others
- Talking very slowly, feeling like you have nothing to say, or forgetting a lot
- Having little energy
- Sleeping too much
- Eating too much or too little
- Lack of interest in your usual activities and being unable to do even simple things
- Thinking about death or suicide
- The symptoms of a mixed episode include both manic and depressive symptoms together. For example, you may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energized.
Some people with bipolar disorder may have milder symptoms. For example, you may have hypomania instead of mania. With hypomania, you may feel very good and find that you can get a lot done. You may not feel like anything is wrong. But your family and friends may notice your mood swings and changes in activity levels. They may realize that your behavior is unusual for you. After the hypomania, you might have severe depression.
Your mood episodes may last a week or two or sometimes longer. During an episode, symptoms usually occur every day for most of the day.
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
To diagnose bipolar disorder, your health care provider may use many tools:
- A physical exam
- A medical history, which will include asking about your symptoms, lifetime history, experiences, and family history
- Medical tests to rule out other conditions
- A mental health evaluation. Your provider may do the evaluation or may refer you to a mental health specialist to get one.
What are the treatments for bipolar disorder?
Treatment can help many people, including those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. The main treatments for bipolar disorder include medicines, psychotherapy, or both:
- Medicines can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. You may need to try several different medicines to find which one works best for you. Some people need to take more than one medicine. It's important to take your medicine consistently. Don't stop taking it without first talking with your provider. Contact your provider if you have any concerns about side effects from the medicines.
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help you recognize and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It can give you and your family support, education, skills, and coping strategies. There are several different types of psychotherapy that may help with bipolar disorder.
- Other treatment options include:
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a brain stimulation procedure that can help relieve symptoms. It uses a mild electric current and is done while you are under general anesthesia. ECT is most often used for severe bipolar disorder that is not getting better with other treatments. It may also be used when someone needs a treatment that will work more quickly than medicines. This might be when a person has a high risk of suicide or is catatonic (unresponsive).
- Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a brain stimulation procedure that uses magnetic waves to relieve depression. It is not as powerful as ECT, but with rTMS, you don't need general anesthesia. It also has a low risk of negative effects on your memory and thinking.
- Light therapy has been shown to be effective for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Many people with bipolar disorder also find that their depression gets worse during certain seasons, usually in the fall and winter. Light therapy may help with their symptoms.
- Healthy lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, having a consistent sleep schedule, and keeping a mood journal, can also help with your symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. But long-term, ongoing treatment can help manage your symptoms and enable you to live a healthy, successful life.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
What are blood thinners?
Blood thinners are medicines that prevent blood clots from forming. They do not break up clots that you already have. But they can stop those clots from getting bigger. It's important to treat blood clots, because clots in your blood vessels and heart can cause heart attacks, strokes, and blockages.
Who needs blood thinners?
You may need a blood thinner if you have:
- Certain heart or blood vessel diseases
- An abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation
- A heart valve replacement
- A risk of blood clots after surgery
- Congenital heart defects
What are the different types of blood thinners?
There are different types of blood thinners:
- Anticoagulants, such as heparin or warfarin (also called Coumadin), slow down your body's process of making clots.
- Antiplatelets, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, prevent blood cells called platelets from clumping together to form a clot. Antiplatelets are mainly taken by people who have had a heart attack or stroke.
How can I take blood thinners safely?
When you take a blood thinner, follow the directions carefully. Blood thinners may interact with certain foods, medicines, vitamins, and alcohol. Make sure that your health care provider knows all of the medicines and supplements you are using.
You may need regular blood tests to check how well your blood is clotting. It is important to make sure that you're taking enough medicine to prevent clots, but not so much that it causes bleeding.
What are the side effects of blood thinners?
Bleeding is the most common side effect of blood thinners. They can also cause an upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea.
Other possible side effects can depend on which type of blood thinner that you are taking.
Call your provider if you have any sign of serious bleeding, such as:
- Menstrual bleeding that is much heavier than normal
- Red or brown urine
- Bowel movements that are red or black
- Bleeding from the gums or nose that does not stop quickly
- Vomit that is brown or bright red
- Coughing up something red
- Severe pain, such as a headache or stomachache
- Unusual bruising
- A cut that does not stop bleeding
- A serious fall or bump on the head
- Dizziness or weakness