March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. This special month-long awareness campaign is sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of America, whose mission is to promote awareness, treatment, and research into brain damage, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and helping those who survive them.
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) stresses that no two brain injuries are the same. The damage can range from mild to severe, and the functions and abilities impaired by the brain injury vary greatly based on which area of the brain was affected. Some of the most common forms of brain injury include:
- Hematoma: a hematoma occurs when blood pools outside the blood vessels and begins to clot. If this occurs within the skull, it can lead to increased intracranial pressure and cause permanent damage.
- Hemorrhage: A brain hemorrhage is defined as uncontrolled bleeding in the brain. There are two types of brain hemorrhages: a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the space between the brain tissue and skull, and an intracerebral hemorrhage, which is bleeding within the brain tissue. A severe hemorrhage can lead to death, but even small, undetected bleeds can cause pressure buildup and brain damage.
- Concussion: This type of traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain collides with the skull hard enough to cause temporary loss of consciousness. The loss of brain function may only last a short time in a concussion; however, repeated concussions can cause serious brain damage.
- Edema: Cerebral edema occurs when the brain swells due to an injury or infection, causing it to press against the skull. Brain swelling is dangerous because the skull cannot expand to accommodate the pressure.
- Skull fracture: Unlike other bones in the human body, the skull contains no bone marrow, making it extremely difficult to break. However, if enough force is applied to fracture the skull, the brain is usually damaged as well.
- Diffuse axonal injury: This type of brain injury causes the death of brain cells, leading to impairment, loss of executive function, and even death. It is often caused by oxygen deprivation. Although it is harder to detect than other types of brain injuries, diffuse axonal injuries are considered the most dangerous type of injuries to the brain.
Brain injuries can be difficult to detect, and it can take several days—sometimes longer—for the damage to become apparent. Symptoms of a mild brain injury include headache, dizziness, nausea, and mild cognitive impairment. More serious symptoms include loss of consciousness, serious confusion or disorientation, problems with balance and muscle control, and seizures.