Ask the BayCare Clinic Specialist: Raise your brain injury awareness
Mon, Mar 2, 2020
Question: How big a deal is Brain Injury Awareness Month?
Answer: It’s a big deal, because we’re not talking about it frequently enough. Brain injury is often referred to as a silent epidemic because few people know about it despite the eye-opening number of people injured each year.
More than 3.5 million people experience a brain injury each year, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. An estimated 12 million Americans live with the impact of such an injury.
A brain injury can occur anytime our head is subjected to a strong bump, blow, jolt or penetrating injury that interrupts the normal function of the brain. Some brain injuries are traumatic, such as a head injury sustained during a car crash. Some are due to non-traumatic causes like drowning, stroke or infection. Others are less severe but may still cause disturbances in normal brain function, as experienced during a concussion.
Creating awareness of brain injuries and how to prevent them is critical. Given that about 140 people die each day from traumatic brain injury, we need to create awareness of this often preventable condition.
Brain Injury Awareness Month is held each March. It recognizes people who have survived brain injuries, empowers them, de-stigmatizes their injuries and promotes research and treatment.
Symptoms of brain injury
Symptoms of traumatic brain injury are often difficult to recognize because they differ, depending on the severity of the injury. Mild brain injury may lead to headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue and mood changes.
A more serious brain injury can result in bruising, internal bleeding and other brain damage. This can lead to long-term complications or death.
Symptoms of a more serious brain injury may include vomiting or nausea, dilated pupils, slurred speech, numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination and increased confusion, restlessness or agitation.
Symptoms in children are often difficult to diagnose because children don’t express how they feel as thoroughly as adults can.
Brain injury treatment also depends on the severity of the injury. When someone has a moderate to severe injury, treatment can involve the combined efforts of neurologists, psychiatrists, physiatrists, rehabilitation therapists, case managers and social workers, along with a person’s friends and family.
For mild traumatic brain injuries, treatment often involves resting the body and the brain. If symptoms of brain injury persist, further evaluation by a neurologist and/or a neuropsychologist may help.
There are many measures you can take to prevent situations that may lead to a brain injury. They include, but are not limited to:
- Wearing a seatbelt when you drive or ride in a motor vehicle
- Never driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Removing hazards at home that may contribute to falls (rugs, loose electrical cords, toys, and so on)
- Installing handrails for frail or elderly people in your life
- Ensuring people wear the proper protective equipment for their sport or outdoor activity. For example, snow helmets for skiing and bike helmets for cycling.
Brain Injury Awareness Month offers an opportunity to shed some much-needed light on a condition that affects millions of Americans and their families each year. It is, for many of us, a big deal and hopefully it’s a big deal for you now, as well.
Dr. Paul Baek is a neurological surgeon with BayCare Clinic. He sees patients in Green Bay, Two Rivers and Marinette.