- Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments Center
- Dementia Slideshow Pictures
- Take the ADHD Quiz
- Brain Foods Slideshow
- Patient Comments: Brain Damage - Causes
- Patient Comments: Brain Damage - Prevention
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Brain damage introduction
Brain damage is an injury that causes the destruction or deterioration of brain cells.
In the U.S., every year, about 1.4 million people have some type of brain injury. And approximately 5.3 million people suffer from the effects of brain damage. About 50,000 die as a result of brain injury. Medical costs and lost productivity are estimated at between $48 billion and $60 billion per year.
What are the types of brain damage and how severe are they?
All traumatic brain injuries are head injuries. But head injury is not necessarily brain injury. There are two types of brain injury: traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury. Both disrupt the brain's normal functioning.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is caused by an external force -- such as a blow to the head -- that causes the brain to move inside the skull or damages the skull. This in turn damages the brain.
- An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) occurs at the cellular level. It is most often associated with pressure on the brain. This could come from a tumor. Or it could result from neurological illness, as in the case of a stroke.
Both traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury occur after birth. And neither is degenerative. Sometimes, the two terms are used interchangeably.
There is a kind of brain damage that results from genetics or birth trauma. It's called congenital brain damage. It is not included, though, within the standard definition of brain damage or traumatic brain injury.
Most brain injuries cause focal -- or localized -- brain damage, such as the damage caused when a bullet enters the brain. In other words, the damage is confined to a small area. Closed head injuries frequently cause diffuse brain damage, which means damage to several areas of the brain. For example, both major speech and language areas might be involved.
The severity of brain damage can vary with the type of brain injury. A mild brain injury is temporary. It causes such symptoms as headaches, confusion, memory problems, and nausea. In a moderate brain injury, symptoms can last longer and be more pronounced. In both cases, most patients make a good recovery.
With a serious brain injury, the person may suffer life-changing and debilitating problems. People who are in a coma or a minimally responsive state are examples of those who are likely to have permanent brain damage.
What causes brain damage?
When the brain is starved of oxygen for a prolonged period of time, brain damage may occur. Brain damage can occur as a result of a wide range of injuries, illnesses, or conditions. Because of high-risk behaviors, males between the ages of 15 and 24 are most vulnerable. Young children and the elderly also have a higher risk.
Causes of traumatic brain injury include:
- car accidents
- blows to the head
- sports injuries
- falls or accidents
- physical violence
Causes of acquired brain injury include:
What are the symptoms of brain damage?
There are numerous symptoms of brain damage, whether traumatic or acquired. They fall into four major categories:
Cognitive symptoms of brain damage include:
- difficulty processing information
- difficulty in expressing thoughts
- difficulty understanding others
- shortened attention span
- inability to understand abstract concepts
- impaired decision-making ability
- memory loss
Perceptual symptoms of brain damage include:
- change in vision, hearing, or sense of touch
- spatial disorientation
- inability to sense time
- disorders of smell and taste
- balance issues
- heightened sensitivity to pain
Physical symptoms of brain damage include:
- persistent headaches
- extreme mental fatigue
- extreme physical fatigue
- sensitivity to light
- sleep disorders
- slurred speech
- loss of consciousness
Behavioral/emotional symptoms of brain damage include:
- irritability and impatience
- reduced tolerance for stress
- flattened or heightened emotions or reactions
- denial of disability
- increased aggressiveness
How are brain damage and brain injuries treated?
Anyone who has a head or brain injury needs immediate medical attention.
A brain injury that seems mild -- referred to as a concussion -- can be as dangerous as clearly severe injuries. The key factor is the extent and location of the damage. Brain injury does not necessarily result in long-term disability or impairment. But the correct diagnosis and treatment is needed to contain or minimize the damage.
The extent and effect of brain damage is determined by a neurological exam, neuroimaging testing such as X-rays or CT scans, and neuropsychological assessment such as checking reflexes. Doctors will stabilize the patient to prevent further injury, ensure blood and oxygen are flowing properly to the brain, and ensure that blood pressure is controlled.
About half of severely injured patients require surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel or to relieve pressure on the brain.
If a patient is severely injured, rehabilitation may be ordered to assist in long-term recovery. That may include:
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- speech and language therapy
- psychological support
Can I prevent brain injuries?
Most injuries that cause brain damage are preventable. Here are some rules to follow to reduce the risk of brain damage:
- Never shake a child.
- Install window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows.
- Install shock-absorbing material on playgrounds.
- Wear helmets during sports or cycling.
- Wear seatbelts in cars, and drive carefully.
- Avoid falls by using a stepstool when reaching for high items.
- Install handrails on stairways.
- Don't keep guns; if you do, keep them unloaded and locked away.
- Don't use illegal drugs.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation, and never drink and drive.
WebMD Medical Reference
Quick GuideConcussions & Brain Injuries: Symptoms, Tests, Treatment
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; "Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page."
New Jersey Monthly: "Questions From Steve Adubato."
National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders: "Traumatic Brain Injury: Cognitive and Communication Disorders."
Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania: "Tips for Preventing Brain Injury."
Reviewed by Jon Glass on March 02, 2010
Brain Damage - Symptoms
Do you know how to spot the symptoms of brain damage?Post
Brain Damage - Causes
Please describe the cause of brain damage for you, a friend, or family member.Post View 3 Comments
Brain Damage - Treatment
Please discuss the treatment or therapy for a brain injury.Post
Brain Damage - Prevention
If you have been affected by brain injury, what are ways of reducing risk?Post View 1 Comment
Top Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment Related Articles
Brain aneurysm (cerebral aneurysm) is caused by microscopic damage to artery walls, infections of the artery walls, tumors, trauma, drug abuse. Symptoms include headache, numbness of the face, dilated pupils, changes in vision, the "worst headache of your life," or a painful stiff neck. Immediate treatment for a brain aneurysm is crucial for patient survival.
Brain CancerCancers that form from brain tissue are called primary brain tumors. Brain tumors may be malignant (brain cancer) or benign. Certain risk factors, such as working in an oil refinery, as a chemist, or embalmer, increase the likelihood of developing brain cancer. Symptoms include headaches, weakness, seizures, difficulty walking, blurry vision, nausea,vomiting, and changes in speech, memory, or personality. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
A brain hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused when an artery bursts in the brain, causing localized bleeding in the surrounding tissue. Causes of brain hemorrhage include aneurysm, liver disease, brain tumor, head trauma, high blood pressure, and blood vessel abnormalities. Symptoms include sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, tingling, numbness, vision changes, loss of consciousness, and loss of fine motor skills. Treatment depends upon the cause, location, and size of the brain hemorrhage.
Brain Lesions (Lesions on the Brain)A brain lesion is defined as an area of damaged brain. Brain lesions (lesions on the brain) are caused by:
- autoimmune diseases,
- other diseases,
- pituitary adenomas,
- and cerebral palsy.
- neck pain and stiffness,
- affected vision and speech,
- and weakness or paralysis to one side of the body.
CAT ScanA CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
CT Scan vs MRI
CT scan (computerized tomography) is a procedure that uses X-rays to scan and take images of cross-sections of parts of the body. CT scan can help diagnose broken bones, tumors or lesions in areas of the body, blood clots in the brain, legs, and lung, and lung infections or diseases like pneumonia or emphysema.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a procedure that uses strong magnetic fields and radiofrequency energy to make images of parts of the body, particularly, the organs and soft tissues like tendons and cartilage.
Both CT and MRI are painless, however, MRI can be more bothersome to some individuals who are claustrophobic, or suffer from anxiety or panic disorders due to the enclosed space and noise the machine makes.
MRI costs more than CT, while CT is a quicker and more comfortable test for the patient.
HeadacheHeadaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
Seizures Symptoms and TypesSeizures are divided into two categories: generalized and partial. Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the brain, while partial seizures are produced by electrical impulses in a small part of the brain. Seizure symptoms include unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.
Stroke Symptoms and Treatment
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic).
Symptoms of a stroke may include:
- double vision or vision loss,
- difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
TremorTremor is the involuntary movements of one or more parts of the body. Causes of tremor include neurological disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, drugs, mercury poisoning, overactive thyroid and liver failure. There are several types of tremor. Treatment depends upon the type of tremor and availability of medications for the condition.