Concussions or traumatic brain injuries affect thousands of people in the United States every single year.
What makes concussions challenging to manage is their vague signs and symptoms that render the diagnosis and treatment difficult.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the number of hospital visits and deaths caused by concussions raised by 53% between 2006 and 2014.
In this article, we will cover the mechanism of a concussion, how to diagnose this condition, and the available treatment options.
The mechanisms of concussions
The brain is protected by the skull; however, the confined space within the skull can be counterproductive.
In order to stop the brain from crashing into the skull every time you move, the former secretes a liquid known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which acts as a lubricant.
Whenever the cushioning capabilities of the CSF get surpassed due to high-intensity crashes, concussions occur.
The shock waves travel throughout the brain tissue, tearing the neurons apart.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion
The signs and symptoms of concussions are diverse and vague, manifesting as:
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
Treatments of concussions
Your doctor will base the treatment on the severity of your symptoms.
If a brain CT scan shows bleeding within the skull, draining the blood by a neurosurgeon may be useful to reduce the intracranial pressure.
However, most cases of concussions only require symptomatic treatment that consists of painkillers, rehydration, and neck support.
The diagnosis of a concussion involves three steps:
- History taking
- Physical examination
Your physician will start by asking you a few questions to establish a history of physical trauma and other risk factors. He/she will then conduct a neurological physical examination to look for any signs that align with the diagnosis of concussion.
If you present with severe symptoms, your doctor may order an MRI or a CT scan to visualize the brain and pinpoint the injured region.
Once the diagnosis is established, it is time for medical/surgical management.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the treatment approach will vary. For instance, if the CT scan shows internal bleeding inside your skull, you may need a surgical procedure by a neurosurgeon to drain that blood and relieve the pressure.
In most cases, symptomatic treatment may be sufficient. So, if you present to the emergency department with a headache after hitting your head, your physician may prescribe acetaminophen to relieve your pain and advise you to get a lot of rest and hydration.
Concussions are especially prevalent in athletes, occurring in thousands of professionals annually. Unfortunately, the late diagnosis of this condition can be detrimental to the prognosis of patients.
Hopefully, this article served as an introduction to the complex topic of concussions, including how to diagnose the condition and what treatments work best.
Here’s to your health!
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Disclaimer: This information is provided as an educational service only, and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Anyone seeking specific medical advice or assistance should consult his or her doctor or orthopedic surgeon.