Addressing quality of life after concussion or other brain injury
Because concussions are relatively common, many people assume these injuries simply heal and life returns to normal. While that’s true for many patients, quality of life after concussion can diminish for some people.
People whose symptoms don’t subside after six weeks or so might receive a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome (PCS).
Weill Cornell Medicine defines PCS as:
“Post-concussion syndrome can include physical, cognitive, and emotional problems, including:
- Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
- The sense that you ‘just don’t feel like yourself’”
As the site notes, these symptoms should improve over time – especially with the proper treatment.
As noted by The Mayo Clinic, experts disagree about what causes PCS. Some say a concussion injury causes damage to brain structure or connections within the brain. Others point to psychological factors “…especially since the most common symptoms — headache, dizziness and sleep problems — are similar to those often experienced by people diagnosed with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.”
When It’s More than a Concussion
As we noted in last week’s blog, concussions are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI). However, more severe TBIs can mimic concussion symptoms, and even the term “mild” might be misleading in some concussion cases. In short, concussions are a brain injury, and you should take seriously any blow to the head or impact that causes your head to jerk forward and back violently.
All forms of brain injuries require medical attention, as The Mayo Clinic notes:
“The terms mild, moderate and severe are used to describe the effect of the injury on brain function. A mild injury to the brain is still a serious injury that requires prompt attention and an accurate diagnosis.”
If you blacked out during your accident, your doctor will likely diagnose a moderate or severe TBI, depending on your symptoms. Losing consciousness is the key differentiator between mTBIs (aka concussions) and TBIs.
Quality of Life After a Head Injury
Regardless of the cause, persistent symptoms after a head injury can impact a person’s quality of life.
If you have a concussion, or mTBI, you will see most quality-of-life impacts in the short-term after your accident. You will likely need to:
- Stop working out or participating in sports
- Take a break from work or school, at least temporarily
- Limit how much time you spend doing both physical and mental activity
- Manage headaches and other pain according to doctor’s orders
While your former quality of life should return, these short-term effects can leave concussion patients feeling bored, frustrated or even depressed. If you do show signs of mood changes, be sure to talk with your doctor.
In addition, if you have experienced a concussion in the past, your symptoms might be more severe with each new concussive episode. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have had prior head injuries at any age.
If you have a moderate or severe TBI, your quality of life could change for the long-term. You might experience these changes:
- Motor skills challenges, including difficulty walking, balancing or carrying objects
- Relationship challenges
- Mood swings
- Problems with memory
- Chronic pain
- Speech problems
These changes can impact everything from your close relationships to your ability to work. Many TBI patients develop depression and other mental health concerns as their quality of life decreases. In these cases, access to quality medical care and mental health care becomes increasingly important.
If you are living with a traumatic brain injury after an accident, contact us for a free case consultation.