The human brain is an exceptionally complicated organ, consisting of trillions of cells. It is responsible for the control of our entire body. It is encased within the skull and cushioned in cerebrospinal fluid.
This usually protects the brain. Sometimes however this protection is not enough and the brain can be susceptible to damage and disease. Injury to the brain results in the destruction of brain cells which can pose serious threat to life and function.
No two brain injuries are the same. The extent of the damage and any lasting impacts depend on the type, location and severity of the injury.
Brain injuries typically fall under one of two categories.
Acquired brain injuries is any injury to the brain that occurs after birth. Often they are due to a stroke or tumour. This typically causes an increase in pressure on the brain (intracranial pressure) which can cause damage to the surrounding tissue, impairing brain function. In very rare cases, degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease, and infections that spread to the brain can affect children.
Traumatic brain injuries occur following a head injury. The most commons causes are falls, vehicle accidents and violence. Not all head injuries result in damage to the brain, but they can prove very dangerous depending on the severity of the injury.
This kind of injury typically causes bruises and bleeds to occur within the brain. Larger bleeds often increase the pressure inside the skull and cause further damage to other brain tissue not immediately affected by the injury.
Concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. It is also known as a mild traumatic brain injury. It is usually caused by a blow to the head, often because of sporting injuries or falls.
The cerebrospinal fluid usually cushions the brain, but upon sudden impact this may not be enough and the brain can hit the inside of the skull, causing bruising.
- Post-traumatic amnesia (events directly after injury cannot be recalled)
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Loss of consciousness may occur in some cases and may last from a few seconds to several minutes
Depending on the severity of the concussion, symptoms usually only last for a few days. In some cases however they may last for weeks or months. This is known as Post-Concussion Syndrome. Common symptoms included headaches, irritable mood, restlessness and memory difficulties.
Concussion symptoms can get worse over time so it is important to closely monitor your child in the hours and days following a head injury.
Signs it may be something more serious:
- Uneven pupil size
- Cannot wake the child or child is very drowsy
- Persistent headache that gets worse
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty recognising people
- Loss of consciousness
- Increasing confusion or agitation
- Vomiting or nausea
If your child is showing any of the above symptoms they should be seen by a medical professional immediately.