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What is a head injury?
A head injury is any harm to your brain, skull, or scalp. Head injuries can be mild, moderate, or severe. Common types include:
- This is a jarring injury to the brain. Most of the time people remain conscious. They may feel dazed and may lose vision or balance for a brief time.
- Brain contusion. This is a bruise of the brain. Minor bleeding in your brain causes swelling.
- Skull fracture. This crack in the skull. Sometimes the broken skull bones can cut into the brain. This causes bleeding and can lead to another injury.
- This is a collection of blood that can occur inside the skull next to the brain or outside the skull under the scalp. It can appear right away or may take several days.
Symptoms of a head injury
With a head injury, it’s normal to have a headache and nausea. You may be dizzy or disoriented right afterward. You may also have problems focusing or remembering things. Other symptoms include ringing in the ears, neck pain, or vision problems. These symptoms often go away in a few weeks or may last longer if the injury was severe.
Get help right away if you notice the following symptoms:
- Any symptom that is getting worse, such as headaches, nausea, or fatigue
- Frequent vomiting
- Drastic changes in behavior, such as anger or confusion
- Pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated) different sizes
- Trouble walking or speaking.
- Problems breathing
- Drainage of bloody or clear fluids from ears or nose
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Loss of consciousness
What causes a head injury?
There are several causes of head injuries. You may get injured playing a sport or activity. Certain jobs, such as construction, contain risk of a head injury. Children or elderly people may fall around the house and get hurt. Severe head injuries are most likely to occur in a car, motorcycle, or bicycle wreck.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is a head injury diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about how the injury happened, your symptoms, and about past health problems. Tell them if you’ve had serious symptoms such as vomiting or seizures. The healthcare provider may also ask questions to test your memory and mental function. Examples include “What’s your name?”, “What day is it?”, and “Where are you?”. You may need to stay in the hospital. This allows the healthcare provider to watch and monitor your condition.
Most head injuries do not require imaging (taking pictures of your head). If your healthcare provider wants an image, they may order a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. These scans check for damage and help the healthcare provider diagnose an injury.
Can a head injury be prevented or avoided?
You cannot always avoid head injuries, but you can do things to decrease your risk. These include:
- Wearing a seatbelt in the car.
- Wearing a helmet on a motorcycle or bicycle.
- Wearing proper protective gear at work or when playing sports.
- Keeping a close watch on children and elderly people for falls or accidents.
A mild head injury may require only a brief period of rest followed by gradual return to activity. However, you should know the signs to look for in case a problem begins. Your healthcare provider can help you determine this. Severe injuries often require medical attention and a hospital stay.
Living with a head injury
Most people recover from head injuries with no lasting effects. However, damage can occur if your brain moves or is pierced. Talk to your doctor about how to manage side effects or symptoms, such as pain.
After a head injury, you may have memory loss. For example, you may forget the events right before, during and right after the accident. Memory of these events may or may not come back. Following treatment, the ability to learn and remember new things often returns.