A concussion is a temporary brain injury. It may be caused by a bump or blow to the head, and in some circumstances, a concussion may be caused by trauma to another part of the body that makes the head move sharply back and forth. The sudden movement can cause stretching, twisting, or other damage to brain cells. With proper treatment, most symptoms are resolved within two weeks.
There is no test or X-ray to diagnose a concussion. However, tests or imaging may be ordered to rule out serious injury. A doctor decides whether a concussion exists based on patient observation and symptoms explained by the patient. For this reason, observations of concussion symptoms are vital after a head injury.
Ringing In The Ears
Ringing in the ears, a condition also known as tinnitus, may include other sounds like buzzing or hissing. It's not unusual for tinnitus to occur after a head injury. This symptom generally results from a bump to the temporal lobe, which is located below the temples and processes sound. Noise sensitivity may also occur with tinnitus, making noisy public places difficult to endure. Ringing usually goes away within minutes or a few hours. If it continues or gets worse, medical attention is necessary. If tinnitus symptoms with or without dizzy feelings continue after other concussion symptoms subside, patients may be referred to an ear specialist.
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Confusion About Trauma
Confusion immediately after a head injury occurs is likely a sign of a concussion. Usually, only short-term memory is affected, and it might be limited to the inability to recall the event. Confusion about the trauma may occur whether or not the individual lost consciousness. The patient may not know what caused their injury, have a slow response time to questions, have difficulties remembering new information, or feel like they are dazed or in a fog. A medical professional will likely ask a series of questions to determine if the patient's cognitive ability is severely affected.
Disorientation is normal following a head injury. Difficulty remembering new information, trouble with concentration, and the inability to think clearly may be experienced for several days. If these symptoms get worse or the patient cannot recognize people or places, seek emergency treatment. Restlessness or agitation may occur with increasing confusion.
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Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms of a concussion. Vertigo or difficulty with balance may also occur, especially in young children or the elderly. Vertigo is often described as a feeling like you are spinning when you are still or the world spinning around you. For most individuals, dizziness following a concussion subsides within a few days. However, if the symptoms persist, there may be an underlying problem.
Post-concussion syndrome is used to describe concussion symptoms that continue for weeks or months. When balance is affected for a prolonged period, additional tests may be necessary. The inner ear greatly influences the body's balance system, and patients who experience long-term vertigo after a concussion may have suffered trauma to the inner ear. Loss of balance may be accompanied by tinnitus or loss of hearing.
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Nausea And Vomiting
Many concussion symptoms can be responsible for nausea and vomiting in the days following a head injury. Headaches, especially migraines, may be accompanied by nausea. Stomach discomfort and vomiting are also common with balance problems and vertigo.
While nausea and some vomiting are normal symptoms during recovery from a concussion, vomiting immediately after the injury may be a warning sign of additional damage. Some studies point to evidence that patients with episodes of vomiting are more likely to have suffered a skull fracture. While some nausea is likely to occur, repeated vomiting should be checked by a medical professional.
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Temporary Loss Of Consciousness
It is a common misconception that a patient doesn't have a concussion unless a loss of consciousness occurs. In fact, many concussions do not involve losing consciousness. However, temporary loss of consciousness, even for only a few seconds may still signify a concussion or a more serious head injury.
Any loss of consciousness should be checked by a medical professional, and severe cases require emergency attention. If you are with someone who suffers a head injury with a prolonged loss of consciousness, do not move them and seek emergency assistance. Other dangerous symptoms upon waking include one pupil larger than the other, repeated vomiting, slurred speech, and numbness.