Concussion: symptoms, causes, treatment, and diagnosis
The cranial structure, despite being quite protected, is extremely susceptible to any injury or accident that ends up causing serious damage or discomfort to the person who suffers it.
One of these accidents is known as concussion , which despite the fact that on most occasions it does not cause great damage, if the person does not maintain rest and take care of their health it may end up leading to a multiple concussion or a second impact syndrome.
What is a concussion?
Concussion is the most common and mildest type of brain trauma. On a more technical level, the expression refers to a small loss of consciousness that does not last long and which can occur after receiving an impact on the head, due to an injury or after a movement in which the head and the brain move back and forth very quickly.
Although a concussion does not usually have to be fatal, it can cause a number of symptoms of considerable importance , which should be treated as soon as possible.
This type of trauma can also cause neurological maladjustments without the need for apparent structural injury. After a cerebral seizure of this type, the brain is briefly blocked, and loss of consciousness, confusion or alterations in memory may occur .
The fact that it is one of the most common brain injuries is because of the ease with which it can occur, since any fall, car accident, or any sport or daily activity that involves a lot of movement makes the person susceptible to suffering a concussion.
The symptoms associated with a concussion vary according to the person suffering from it and the severity of the injury. For example, although loss of consciousness is a very common symptom of concussion, not everyone who suffers a concussion will faint.
Similarly, the person may experience the following symptoms both immediately and within hours, or even days and weeks, of the accident.
Concussion symptoms can be classified into three types : mild concussion symptoms, severe symptoms and symptoms that appear during the recovery process.
1. Mild symptoms
These are the most common symptoms following a concussion, although they are usually annoying and do not lead to major problems.
- Short-lived fainting or unconsciousness.
- Alterations in memory .
- Confusion or disorientation.
- Sleepy feeling .
- Vision problems.
- Nausea or vomiting .
- Photophobia or low light tolerance.
- Lack of balance.
- Slow reaction times.
2. Severe symptoms
If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention urgently, as these are signs of a larger concussion. These symptoms are:
- Alteration of mental lucidity and consciousness.
- Continuous feeling of confusion.
- Epileptic seizures.
- Muscle weakness .
- Changes in pupil size.
- Strange eye movements .
- Frequent vomiting.
- Difficulties in walking or maintaining balance.
- Prolonged unconsciousness or coma
3. Symptoms during recovery
Finally, it is common for the person to present a series of symptoms derived from the effects of the shock which arise during the recovery period .
- Irritability or mood swings.
- Hypersensitivity to light or noise
- Problems with concentration.
- Mild headaches.
Causes and risk factors
As mentioned above, concussion can be the result of a blow or a fall in any context or by performing any activity or an accident in any type of vehicle.
Significant movement of the brain in any direction or orientation can result in loss of consciousness for the person. Depending on the duration of this loss of consciousness, the severity of the shock will be greater or lesser.
However, a shock does not always lead to fainting , some people experience an alteration in visual perception that makes them see everything black or white. In the same way, a person may suffer a mild concussion and not be aware of it, since he or she may not experience any symptoms or, if he or she does, it is so mild that he or she does not associate it.
Also, there are a number of risk factors that increase a person’s chance of suffering a concussion. These factors are:
- Being a man.
- Children under 5 years of age.
- People between the ages of 15 and 24.
- People over 75 years of age.
- Conducting contact sports activities .
- Professions related to construction or agriculture.
- Driving or riding in a vehicle at high speed.
- Alcohol consumption .
- Certain medications that induce or cause drowsiness.
When diagnosing a possible concussion, medical personnel should conduct a pre-test interview to obtain information about the type of injury and symptoms the patient is experiencing.
Then it is necessary to perform a physical examination to check the state of the nervous system . This examination includes assessment of reflexes, variations in pupil size, coordination and alertness.
Finally, and depending on the patient’s condition, a series of diagnostic tests and examinations will be performed . These tests include:
- Computerized tomography (CT).
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) in cases where the seizures persist
The treatment of choice after suffering a concussion will depend on the importance and extent of the symptoms .
If the person has severe bleeding, swelling or brain damage, surgery may be necessary. However, this does not happen often.
Analgesics are usually the prescribed medication in most cases, since the person only tends to have a series of somewhat annoying headaches. The usual recommendations after suffering a concussion are
- Rest .
- Observation of the affected person for possible complications
- Do not do any kind of sport or intense physical activity for the next 24 hours.
- Do not drive any type of motor or non-motorized vehicle after 24 hours.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages.
Full recovery from a concussion may take a little time, lasting days, weeks, or months. Problems or symptoms that occur during recovery tend to be short-lived, but you may need help or assistance from others with certain daily activities.
However, it is possible for the person to suffer a multiple concussion while the first concussion is developing.
After suffering a first concussion, and if the instructions of the healthcare personnel are not followed or if some type of sport or physical activity is performed, the person is susceptible to suffering a second concussion.
This multiple concussion can lead to a condition known as Second Impact Syndrome (SSI) . Unlike common concussions, second impact syndrome increases the chances of significant brain inflation, which does involve a risk of death.