Getting a prompt and accurate brain injury diagnosis is important. A person with a suspected brain injury should call 911, go to the emergency room, or contact a physician immediately. After an impact or injury to the head, an individual can experience a variety of symptoms, which can help diagnose a brain injury.
What are the common symptoms of a brain injury?
- Spinal fluid (thin, clear liquid) coming out of the ears or nose
- Loss of consciousness
- Dilated (the black center of the eye is large and does not get smaller in light) or unequal size of pupils
- Vision changes (blurred vision or seeing double, not able to tolerate bright light, loss of eye movement, blindness)
- Balance problems
- Respiratory failure (difficulty breathing)
- Coma (not alert and unable to respond to others) or semi-comatose state
- Paralysis, or difficulty moving body parts
- Poor coordination
- Slow pulse
- Slow breathing rate, with an increase in blood pressure
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or changes in ability to hear
- Difficulty with thinking skills (difficulty “thinking straight”, memory problems, poor judgment, poor attention span, a slowed thought processing speed)
- Inappropriate emotional responses (irritability, easily frustrated, inappropriate crying or laughing)
- Difficulty speaking (slurred speech, difficulty swallowing)
- Body numbness or tingling
- Loss of bowel control or bladder control
What is the difference between a brain injury diagnosis and determining injury severity?
Getting a brain injury diagnosis and determining injury severity are two different things. In cases where the injury is more severe, it is usually clear from the individual’s symptoms that some type of brain injury has occurred. With severe brain injuries, there is typically a prolonged loss of consciousness and/or the signs of injury appear on neuroimaging tests. In situations where the brain injury is mild or moderate, the symptoms can be more subtle so further assessment is often needed to get a brain injury diagnosis.