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Head injury: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About head injury

Head injury is defined as trauma or injury related to the head which constitutes the scalp, skull and the brain tissue. The skull is a protective bony structure inside which the brain is placed. The brain is a vital organ of the body and thus cushioned by the surrounding cerebrospinal fluid. Injuries of the head may range from minor to severe to life-threatening.

Head injury: Incidence, age and sex

Head injury is one of the most common traumatic events encountered in the general population. It may be seen in any age group and has no genetic predilection.

Signs and symptoms of head injury: Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms of head injury depend upon the grade of the severity. Head injury can be technically of two types - namely closed and open. ‘Closed’ head injury implies that the skull has remained intact during trauma whereas ‘open’ head injury also known as ‘penetrating’ injury signifies a break in the skull bone. The most common type of head injury is ‘concussion’ wherein the individual exhibits brief loss of memory related to the traumatic event and temporary change in mental functions resulting in irritability, agitation and mental confusion. Other features which may be observed are external bleeding from scalp, fracture of the skull, bruises and internal bleeding which is also called intracranial haemorrhage. Intracranial haemorrhage is a very serious condition manifested by sudden bout of vomiting accompanied with headache, blurring of vision, speech problems or even convulsions.

A history of injury along with detailed physical examination usually points towards the diagnosis. Imaging modalities like CT and MRI scans may be done to detect the exact condition and location of head injury.

Causes and prevention of head injury

Several causes may result in head injury of which motor vehicle accidents are the commonest. Other causes include gun-shot wounds, physical assaults, fall from heights and sports injuries. Wearing of protective gear while playing sports, wearing seatbelts while in four wheelers and using a protective head-gear while driving two wheelers may help in preventing head injuries.

Head injury: Complications

The complications of head injury happen when the brain gets traumatised. The brain is responsible for functions of the various parts of the body and thus its affliction may not be restricted to the brain but affect the whole body. Features like loss of vision, speech impairment or impairment of the thought process and uncoordinated movements may be encountered. In rare cases, an affected individual may also experience paralysis of the limbs.

Following head injury hypopituitarism can occur with symptoms such as loss of libido and impotence or amenorrhea in women together with symptoms of fatigue.

Head injury: Treatment

The treatment of head injury depends upon degree of the severity and site of involvement. Minor head injury wherein only scalp or skull is affected, may heal within a few days without any residual problem. On the other hand, affliction of the brain tissue is a serious matter and needs detailed evaluation. Immediate steps must be taken to assess and manage the condition. Such injuries affecting the brain may take a long time to resolve. In some cases, the damage may be irreversible. Medications like diuretics may be prescribed in individuals who have increased intracranial pressure due to intracranial bleeding. The outlook of head injuries varies from person to person and other various factors like grade of severity, location of injury and involvement of the brain tissue.

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