What Is a Head Injury?
An injury is considered a head injury when it involves your scalp, skull or brain. These types of injuries range from mild bumps to traumatic brain injuries. The severity and risks posed by brain injuries are hard to assess through basic visual inspection – some minor head injuries bleed excessively, while some major brain injuries don’t bleed at all. Either way, it is important to assume any head injury is serious and get it looked at by a doctor.
What Causes Head Injuries?
Head injuries fall into two categories based on what caused them:
Blows to the head: typically associated with physical assault, sports-related accidents, falls and motor vehicle accidents.
Shaking: most common in small children and infants but can occur to anyone who experiences violent shaking.
Types of Head Injuries
The most common head injuries are concussions, scalp wounds, and skull fractures. Consequences and treatments will vary depending on the severity of the injury and what caused it.
Head injuries fall into two broad categories – opened or closed. An opened, or penetrating, injury happens when your scalp and skull are broken. A closed injury is any head injury that doesn’t break your skull.
Concussion: occurs when your head is impacted hard enough to cause brain injury. This happens when your brain experiences sudden acceleration and deceleration, which causes the brain to hit against the walls of your skull. Concussions typically result in only temporary negative effects, but repeated concussions can lead to permanent damage.
Edema: also known as swelling, many injuries cause edema in the tissues surrounding the brain. Injuries are more serious when the brain itself starts to swell. The human skull can’t stretch, so pressure builds up and causes the brain to press against the skull.
Diffuse axonal injury: any injury that doesn’t cause bleeding but still damages the brain cells. This leads to non-functioning brain cells and additional swelling. Although there aren’t any outwardly visible signs, this is one of the more dangerous head injuries as it can lead to permanent brain damage and death.
Hematoma: clotting of blood outside the blood vessels. This is more serious when it occurs inside the brain as it can lead to pressure buildup. This usually causes you to lose consciousness and can result in permanent brain damage.
Hemorrhage: refers to uncontrolled bleeding. There are two different types of hemorrhages – subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the space around your brain that can cause headaches and vomiting, and intracerebral hemorrhage, which is bleeding within the brain tissue. The severity of the damage depends on how much bleeding occurs, but pressure buildup can happen over time regardless of the amount of blood.
Skull fracture: since your skull doesn’t have bone marrow, it is very strong and hard to break. This also means that when a skull is broken, it can’t absorb the blow, making it more likely to result in brain damage.
What Are the Symptoms of a Head Injury?
Since your head has more blood vessels than other parts of your body, bleeding on the surface or within the brain is a cause for concern when your head is injured. Not all head injuries bleed, so it is important to know the symptoms to look out for. Since many symptoms of a serious brain injury don’t appear immediately, it is important to monitor your symptoms for several days after your head injury.
Minor Head Injury Symptoms
Common symptoms of a minor head injury include:
- Mild confusion
- A spinning sensation
- Temporary ringing in the ears
Severe Head Injury Symptoms
Common symptoms of a severe head injury include:
- Abnormal eye movements
- Balance or coordination problems
- Changes in mood
- Inability to focus the eyes
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of muscle control
- Memory loss
- Persistent or worsening headache
- Serious disorientation
- Leaking of clear fluid from the ears or nose
Complete Care Is Here for You!
All head injuries should be taken seriously, but how do you know when a head injury requires medical attention? If you experience confusion, disorientation, loss of consciousness or any of the other symptoms of a serious head injury, seek medical attention right away. Complete Care has locations across Texas. We offer 24-hour emergency room services for short- and long-term medical needs.