Imagine that you start to experience health problems that you can’t explain. The symptoms are similar to those associated with head injuries, and you begin wondering whether there is a connection between them and that fall you suffered years earlier. They are probably not related due to the simple fact that most head injuries are not serious.
Understanding the Different Types of Head Injuries
Its obvious effects do not always reflect the seriousness of a head injury. A skull fracture is an open wound that often occurs in conjunction with a tear to the scalp and related external bleeding. In reality, a hairline fracture is not normally considered a serious head wound. Alternatively, a fracture that displaces and directs a bone inward may not appear any more serious from the outside, but it has a much greater chance of causing internal damage.
One of the most common types of head injuries is a concussion. This type of injury results from the jolting of the brain that causes bruising of the soft tissue inside, which it is related to physiological and chemical changes. A common myth about concussions is that the injury must result from a direct blow to the head. In fact, the sudden stop of a moving body, whether it be running or driving, can lead to such an injury. Another common misconception is that a concussion will usually cause the injured person to lapse into unconsciousness. Some victims may appear confused or may experience amnesia, but they normally remain conscious. Other symptoms of a concussion include headaches, numbness and nausea, and anyone with at least one of these symptoms should be given medical attention. A CT scan and other medical tests are often used to diagnose a concussion, but such procedures may not necessarily reveal the injury.
The Consequences of Head Injuries
A serious head injury can have a number of long-term consequences. A blood clot caused by an injury may not be discovered until weeks later, and an infection resulting from a serious skull fracture can lead to the development of a case of meningitis. Epilepsy has been known to develop in individuals who suffered head injuries years earlier, and in rare instances an aneurysm, which is a weakening in a blood vessel, may appear in someone who had previously experienced head trauma. Studies have found a relationship between head injuries and Alzheimer’s disease, and some medical authorities also see a connection between head wounds and the subsequent development of brain tumors.
One serious myth is that head injuries affect everyone the same way. Young children are at greater risk because of their inability to relate their symptoms to others and because there may be a dissociation between a childhood injury and symptoms that appear decades later. The elderly are also at considerable risk because they may be in poor health at the time of the injury or may be taking medications that can aggravate internal or external bleeding.
Taking Head Injuries Seriously
Misconceptions aside, it’s a hard truth that a head injury can be serious to anybody who experiences one. It’s important to treat the immediate effects and to recognize possible long-term consequences. It’s particularly important to understand the risks and to take preventive measures in order to reduce those risks.
More information about head injuries is available from the Centers for Disease Control.