What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a sudden jolt to your head that changes the way your brain works. The jolt could be caused by a blow to your head, a blast, or an object like a bullet or fragment entering your brain. Falls, fights, sports, and motor vehicle accidents are other common causes.

Types of TBI

A TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. Most TBIs are mild. A mild TBI is also called a concussion. If you have a mild TBI, you might be knocked out for a short time or you might just feel stunned for a while. With a moderate or severe TBI, the duration of loss of consciousness would be longer. Your health care team will decide the severity of the TBI based on the symptoms at the time of the trauma. Symptoms of TBI are unpredictable since you could have a mild TBI and actually have more persistent symptoms than someone with a more severe TBI.

Symptoms of TBI

Having a TBI can change your brain in many ways. A TBI can change the way you think, feel, act, and move. The symptoms depend on the part of your brain that is injured. Common symptoms of mild TBI can include:

  • Headache

  • Confusion

  • Dizziness

  • Blurry vision

  • Ringing in your ears

  • Feeling tired

  • Loss of memory

  • Mood changes

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Being off balance

  • Being bothered by bright light

  • Feeling sick to your stomach

Symptoms of moderate or severe TBI may include all the symptoms of a mild TBI as well as any or all of these symptoms:

  • Severe headache that does not go away

  • Repeated vomiting

  • Seizures

  • Extreme sleepiness

  • Slurred speech

  • Weakness and numbness in your arms and legs

  • Being very clumsy

  • Being very irritable, restless, or confused

Recovering From TBI

Most people recover completely from a mild TBI. It may take days or weeks. If you have had more than one TBI, your recovery may take longer. Everyone’s brain is different, so your recovery time and treatments will depend on how your brain is healing. Here are some tips to help your recovery:

  • Be honest with your health care team and let them know about all your symptoms.

  • Let your health care provider know right away if your symptoms are getting worse.

  • Make sure to keep all your appointments and follow your health care provider's instructions carefully.

  • Give your brain time to heal. Be patient and get plenty of rest.

  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

  • Don’t take any medications without checking with your health care provider first. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

Symptoms and recovery from a TBI are unpredictable and are different from person to person. Most people do recover completely from most TBIs. Remember that a TBI can change the way you think, feel, move, and act. The best way to recover is to let your family and health care team know about all your symptoms. Work closely with your health care team and give your brain time to heal.