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What are the symptoms of a head injury?

The symptoms of head injury can vary from almost none to loss of consciousness and coma. As well, the symptoms may not necessarily occur immediately at the time of injury. While a brain injury occurs at the time of trauma, it may take time for enough swelling or bleeding to occur to cause symptoms that are recognizable.

Initial symptoms may include a change in mental status, meaning an alteration in the wakefulness of the patient. There may be loss of consciousness, lethargy, and confusion.

Head injury symptoms may also include:

  • vomiting,
  • difficulty tolerating bright lights,
  • leaking cerebrospinal fluide from the ear or nose,
  • bleeding from the ear,
  • speech difficulty,
  • paralysis,
  • difficulty swallowing, and
  • numbness of the body.

Other symptoms may be more subtle and include:

  • nausea,
  • dizziness,
  • irritability,
  • difficulty concentrating and thinking, and
  • amnesia.

Late signs of significant head injury and raised pressure within the brain and skull include a dilated pupil, high blood pressure, low pulse rate, and abnormal breathing pattern.

Coma may be present if the patient doesn't awaken completely and is defined as a prolonged episode of loss of consciousness. There are different levels of coma and the Glasgow Coma Scale is one way of measuring its depth.

Return to Head Injury (Brain Injury)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Ric, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: March 26

While I was in the Navy, I was hit in the head with a very large, heavy object. It required 5 stitches. To this day I have headaches that will last only about 5 to 10 seconds, but they almost knock me to my knees. After they are gone I am so weak I can hardly stand it. No one can tell me what kind of headaches I have.

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Comment from: Deanie, 35-44 Male (Caregiver) Published: August 21

My son fell and hit his forehead on the edge of our concrete step 4 days ago. It caused a two inch laceration that required about ten stitches. His forehead swelled up and he looked similar to the cartoon character Beavis and Butthead with a protruding forehead. The emergency room (ER) doctor said he fractured his skull and right eye socket. The laceration was sort of in the middle of his forehead. The next day his right eye swelled shut and now is better and he says his vision is fine but he has two black eyes and underneath them there is a lot of red coloring as well as black and bluish coloring. I have never seen black eyes look like that and I'm a little concerned. The ER did not do a CT scan or MRI on him. They x-rayed his face but that is all. He has some memory loss and for a couple of days, did not remember the fall at all. He says his head doesn't hurt that much now but he is epileptic and I wonder why a CT scan or MRI wasn't done in the first place. I wonder if his neurologist should be contacted and told of this fall to see if more tests are needed. I'm really concerned that he might be bleeding in his brain.

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Comment from: Patty, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: February 28

I missed a short step and fell against a cement wall, hitting my left forehead and back top, about one quarter of my head. This was yesterday. I had no immediate symptoms, but a large dent in my head and the pain from the blow. I have been icing it and taking Advil. At present my head is somewhat swollen and sore but I have no other symptoms.

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