Brain injuries can be mild or severe. Here are common causes and tips to prevent them.
Our brain controls everything our body does, from talking, thinking, seeing and hearing to feeling, tasting, smelling and even breathing. When the brain is damaged, any (or all) of these functions can be affected, either temporarily or permanently.
There are two types of brain injuries: traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and acquired brain injuries (ABIs), also called non-traumatic brain injuries. Either type can cause localized damage, affecting only one area of the brain, or diffuse damage, affecting many areas at once.
TBIs vs ABIs
Traumatic brain injuries have an external cause, such as a bump or blow to the head, and can cause a skull fracture, cranial bleeding and blood clots. TBIs can occur as a result of:
- Car, motorcycle or biking accidents
- Accidental falls
- Physical violence, including gunshot wounds
- Sports injuries or concussions
Acquired brain injuries occur due to internal causes. The leading cause of ABIs is stroke, but they can also be caused by:
- Tumors (malignant or benign)
- Lack of oxygen (such as caused by strangulation, choking or drowning)
- Brain inflammation or infection (such as meningitis)
- Heart attack
- Poisoning or exposure to toxic substances
- Neurological illnesses
- Drug abuse
Both traumatic and acquired brain injuries can result in mild, moderate or severe physical and/or mental symptoms. A person suffering from a mild brain injury might experience short-term memory loss, nausea, headaches and confusion. With a moderate brain injury, these symptoms can be more prolonged. Severe brain injuries can result in debilitating physical, cognitive and behavioral damage that might be irreversible, changing the person’s life forever.
Treatment for brain injuries may include:
- Medications, such as diuretics (to help decrease fluid buildup) and anti-seizure drugs
- Surgery to relieve pressure inside the skull, remove blood clots or tumors, or stop bleeding
- Occupational therapy, to relearn basic daily functions and activities
- Physical therapy, to gain mobility and strength
- Counseling, to learn coping strategies and other techniques to regain emotional and psychological well-being
While most types of ABIs are difficult to prevent, the chance of experiencing a TBI can be greatly reduced by following these safety precautions:
- In the car, always wear your seat belt and never text while driving. Don’t get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Wear protective gear when playing a contact sport like football, boxing or hockey or when playing a non-contact sport that can result in a severe head injury, like baseball. Wear a helmet when riding a horse, bike, motorcycle, or skateboard, or when skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling.
- At home, remove tripping hazards, especially if there are elderly people or infants/toddlers present. Secure slippery rugs, keep clutter contained and use a nonslip mat in the tub. If falling is a concern, install safety equipment like handrails where necessary, and make sure the lighting is bright enough on stairways and in other areas where tripping or falling is more likely to occur.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 14, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD