A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have numerous detrimental effects. Though each injury is unique, a person with a TBI may experience emotional disturbances, changes in cognition, memory loss, insomnia, and other symptoms. It can be difficult to understand the differences in the types of TBI, which may go by different names. Learn the varying degrees of TBI and what to expect from each condition.
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is one of the mildest types of TBI. It results from an external force, such as blow or bump to the head. Concussions may also arise from falls or other outside trauma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the most common causes of concussions are falls, motor vehicle accidents, playing recreational sports, and violent crime.
A concussion usually results from the brain making contact with your skull. A doctor may describe a concussion as a mild TBI, because it’s usually not life-threatening. Still, concussions vary widely in severity and may lead to long-term complications, especially if the victim suffers multiple concussions or does not receive appropriate treatment.
Concussions can present a variety of symptoms and warning signs, including:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Disorientation or mental confusion
- Sensitivity to light
- Inability to concentrate
Treatment for a concussion generally involves resting the brain. This means no driving, reading, playing sports, or even watching TV. With appropriate treatment, a concussion will typically resolve within a few days and the victim can resume normal activity with a doctor’s approval.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Other types of brain injuries fall under the realm of TBI, with classifications of mild, moderate, or severe. In general, a TBI is any injury to the brain caused by an external force, such as a blow to the head or a violent shaking motion. A TBI can greatly affect a victim’s capacity to learn, think, and control his or her emotions.
A TBI is an acquired injury (meaning not present at birth) that creates a partial or complete impairment or functional disability. The effects may be physical, cognitive, or social. A person who suffers a TBI may have trouble with:
- Emotional regulation
- Problem solving
- Information processing
- Sensory perception
TBIs may arise from car accidents, falls, or other forms of trauma. In children, TBIs may occur from abuse, such as shaken baby syndrome.
Symptoms of TBI
The symptoms of a TBI may vary significantly depending on the nature of the injury and the area of the brain involved. A person with a diagnosed TBI may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Cognitive symptoms such as difficulty speaking, mental confusion, an inability to concentrate, difficulty recognizing everyday items, or amnesia
- Whole body symptoms such as loss of balance, dizziness, fatigue, or fainting
- Behavioral symptoms such as inappropriate reactions to stimuli, aggression, lack of emotional regulation, repetition of words without purpose
- Mood changes such as anxiety, apathy, or anger
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Sensory issues such as sensitivity to sound or light
- Eye changes such as dilated pupils, uneven pupils, or dark circles under the eyes
- Miscellaneous symptoms such as headache, bleeding, blurred vision, depression, seizures, or ringing in the ears
A concussion and a TBI may be terms people use interchangeably, but they have notable differences. A concussion is a form of TBI, and a mild one at that. Moderate or severe TBI can greatly affect a victim’s quality of life, often permanently. The effects of a concussion, on the other hand, are generally temporary. Concussions and TBI are similar in that they represent serious medical conditions that require appropriate care and follow-up treatment.