Majority of the people who sustain traumatic brain injury (TBI) recover within a couple of weeks. However, few people have to deal with a host of persistent challenges indefinitely after the injury. The intensity, symptoms, and long-term effects vary from person to person. Some symptoms appear immediately after the traumatic brain injury, while others develop later.
A mild traumatic brain injury can lead to various long-term critical challenges, like progressive brain atrophy and an increased vulnerability to neurodegenerative disorders. Severe to moderate traumatic brain injuries leave a long-lasting impact on the quality of life. It affects physical and emotional well-being.
A single traumatic brain injury or repetitive injuries can cause changes that persist for weeks to years. It may cause secondary pathological conditions, such as sleep disorders, neuroendocrine problems, seizures, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychiatric problems.
Long-term effects of traumatic brain injury
When a person sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBD), the body works immediately to repair the brain tissue and other internal damage. Patients recover mostly within the first six months of injury. The physical symptoms are short-lived, and ultimately one returns to close-to-normal functioning. However, sometimes, the brain cannot repair some of its damage, resulting in long-term effects or lifetime damage. Hence, some people face complications that last for months or years later.
Physical effects of traumatic brain injury
Moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries may lead to multiple physical problems that can last for months or years. Some common chronic physical effects of traumatic brain injury include the following.
- Headaches and migraines: Those who suffer a traumatic brain injury experience headaches daily, which may worsen.
- Dizziness: In some people, dizziness lasts for a minimum of five years post-injury.
- Inflammation: Moderate to severe injuries can lead to neuroinflammation and chronic immune activation related to behavioral deficits, including depression.
- Sensitivity to light and noise: Sensory complaints are widespread in mild traumatic brain injury cases. The sensitivity to noise and light is termed as phonophobia and photophobia, respectively. It develops as a new symptom in the first few years after moderate-to-severe injury and turns into lifelong concerns.
- Visual difficulties: In cases of severe head injuries, eyes are impacted seriously. Visual challenges include the inability of eyes to focus while reading near vision problems. Also, other eye problems like double or blurry vision develop post-injury.
- Fatigue: Following a traumatic brain injury, a person experiences physical and mental fatigue. Because of its continued presence, fatigue takes a toll on emotional well-being. Insomnia causes influences to work negatively.
Seizures and post-traumatic epilepsy: Many individuals have to deal with late-stage seizures after severe traumatic brain injury. Sometimes seizures and post-traumatic epilepsy become a permanent problem.
Emotional and cognitive effects of traumatic brain injury
Apart from physical symptoms, there are various critical emotional and psychological complications post-injury. These complications last for a longer duration. Emotional and cognitive effects manifest within the first three years of injury and make treatment most-troublesome. As traumatic brain injury affects the brain, there is an increased risk for neurodegenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Social effects of traumatic brain injury
A moderate-to-severe brain injury has a significant impact on the quality of life. Many people who have suffered traumatic brain injury show reduced participation in social activities. Also, patients with severe injury find it difficult to get back to work. This leads to social isolation, which further contributes to a low-quality standard of life.
Are long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries treatable?
If you suspect any kind of brain injury, regardless of severity, you should seek the help of a qualified medical professional. Patients with a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may die because of injury or related complications. Also, depression and other psychiatric comorbidities in the survivors have led to an increased risk of suicide. However, these long-term effects are treatable. Better results are achieved through good medical care immediately after traumatic brain injury.
Rehabilitation therapy helps in cases of moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Such treatments usually begin as an in-patient or an out-patient rehabilitation facility. These facilities specialize in activities of daily living (ADL). Therapy helps patients relearn basic life skills like how to walk, feed, bathe and dress independently. As the brain can compensate for frontal, occipital, and temporal lobes injuries, patients can be retaught to perform certain daily activities.
Rehabilitation therapy helps patients to become as independent as possible after the surgery. Types of rehabilitation include speech and language therapy, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, and psychological care. Recovery is based on the severity of damage to the brain after an injury. Some patients may take months, while others need years of treatment as each brain is unique.