Does TBI Get Worse With Age?

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Every brain injury is different. The type of injury, severity, location, and rehabilitation process all play a part in whether or not symptoms may get worse.

Many effects from a brain injury get better over time, while others may continue on and make rehabilitation more difficult. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to prevent or reverse any decline in your recovery.

People who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries with long-term effects often experience regression during their recovery period. Ongoing rehabilitative treatment is crucial for staying proactive about recognizing, preventing, and reversing any signs of regression after a brain injury.

An old woman seated at a table in a dim room, holding her left hand up to her forehead.

What Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms Show Up Years Later?

Everyone’s brain is different, and their brain injuries are just as unique. Some people experience one or more of the following traumatic brain injury symptoms years later:

  • Headaches
  • Memory Loss
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Depression
  • Foggy Thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Personality Changes

Symptoms that appear years after a traumatic brain injury can be difficult to attribute to the brain injury as there are many other possible explanations for the symptoms. A thorough work-up is necessary to rule out any other causes before the brain injury can be identified as the culprit.

What Causes Traumatic Brain Injuries to Get Worse Over Time?

According to the CDC, about 50% of individuals with a traumatic brain injury may experience decline or premature mortality within five years of the injury. There are many causes for a decline in recovery, but there are two main reasons why people may get worse over time.

  1. Secondary Brain Injuries
  2. Chemical Changes in the Brain

What Are Secondary Brain Injuries?

Complications may occur after an initial injury to the brain. Some examples of these complications include:

  • Hypoxia – a lack of oxygen reaching the brain causing brain cells to die
  • Inflammation – swelling in or around the brain puts pressure on the brain because the skull will not expand to accommodate the increase in size
  • Thrombus or Embolus – blood clots may form as a result of the injury or from injuries to another part of the body.
  • Infections – bacteria enter the brain

These complications are secondary injuries because they often restrict or stop the flow of blood to certain areas of the brain, causing brain cells to die. The symptoms that arise from brain cell death are not always immediately noticeable, and, as a result, the brain injury appears to become worse over time.

What Causes Chemical Changes in the Brain?

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain. When the brain is injured, an excess amount of neurotransmitters may become present and will overstimulate the brain cells causing them to eventually die.

Other harmful chemical events and an excess of neurotransmitters may cause someone with a brain injury to become worse over time.

How Does the Rehabilitation Process Affect Recovery?

Recovery from a traumatic brain injury depends heavily upon the rehabilitation process. The risk of complications greatly increases when someone suffering from a brain injury does not receive the necessary treatment for any secondary symptoms as soon as possible.

For example, someone who is having involuntary muscle contractions, known as spasticity, following a traumatic brain injury must undergo rehabilitation right away. Without treatment, the muscle fibers may stay contracted in a serious complication known as contracture.

The brain, as well as the rest of the body, is more susceptible to developing a secondary injury or other medical conditions when complications arise.

This is why following your treatment plan and communicating all of your symptoms and any changes in your condition with your doctor and rehabilitation team is so important. Prevention and quick intervention is the best way to combat any chances of decline after suffering from a brain injury.

Long-Term Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries

All effects of traumatic brain injury are dependent upon the severity and location where the injury occurred.

  • Frontal Lobe – the front of the brain behind the forehead is what is responsible for impulse control, problem-solving, reasoning, planning, and judgment. Damage to this area can cause inappropriate and risky behavior, personality changes, and emotional disorders.
  • Left Side – the left side of the brain is responsible for language, number skills, reasoning, scientific skills, spoken language, and right-hand control. Damage to this area may lead to speech difficulties, problems understanding others, and trouble with logic.
  • Right Side – the right side of the brain is responsible for attention, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving. Injuries to this area may cause difficulty processing visual information, neglect, and apraxia. Apraxia is the loss of the ability to perform a skilled task or movement, even though the person still has the physical capability and desire to carry out the action. For example, a person may be physically able to reach out and grasp an object, but they are unable to make their body perform the correct sequence of movements to reach the object.
  • Cerebellum – the back of the brain is the cerebellum, and it coordinates voluntary muscle movements and helps to maintain posture, balance, and equilibrium. Damage to the cerebellum can lead to the loss of coordination of motor movement, the inability to judge distance and when to stop, the inability to perform rapid alternating movements, movement tremors, staggering, wide-based walking, a tendency toward falling, weak muscles, slurred speech, and abnormal eye movements.

The severity of the trauma to the brain has a direct effect on the long-term symptoms that the sufferer has to endure. The more severe the injury, the higher likelihood of having physical impairments, cognitive impairments, problem-solving challenges, sleep disturbances, and depression.

Long-term effects may include any combination of the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Visual changes
  • Fatigue
  • Paralysis
  • Balance problems
  • Reduced language skills
  • Mood swings

According to The Brain Injury Association of America, more than three million people in the United States live with a permanent disability caused by a traumatic brain injury. More than two million people sustain a traumatic brain injury every year in our country.

Traumatic brain injuries often have wide-ranging, long-term physical and psychological effects.

Head injuries should never be ignored. According to the CDC, a brain injury can be caused by a jolt, a blow, or sometimes just a bump to the head. A person’s cognitive, physical, and emotional behaviors may be impaired for days or years depending on the severity, location, and the treatment of the injury.

Some symptoms present themselves right away following the event of the injury, while others may not appear until weeks or even months later.

Researchers have been studying the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries that have been left untreated for months or longer because they were not taken seriously and ignored or undiagnosed. Their findings are concerning and prove that head injuries are serious, even when they do not cause a loss of consciousness.

A common type of traumatic brain injury is actually so common that many people fail to take them seriously. These injuries are commonly referred to as concussions.

Concussions are extremely common in sports and traffic accidents, as well as in serious falls where the brain is slammed against the skull.

According to a journal in the American Academy of Neurology, there is still visible damage in brain scans months after the injury in people who only suffered mild concussions. This is why medical attention is important after every head injury.

Contact Tatum & Atkinson to Get Your Compensation Fast

If you or someone you care about has suffered a traumatic brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters right away. Call (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation to see if you are eligible for compensation.