Long Term Effects of an Untreated Concussion
Are you or someone you know dealing with a concussion? If so, you may know that concussions can have serious ramifications down the line if they are not taken care of properly. The long-term effects of an untreated concussion can disrupt your life, from headaches and memory problems to difficulty concentrating and emotional instability.
With this quick guide, we want to dive deeper into the potential effects on the person suffering from a TBI. The goal is to know how best to manage symptoms or treat the concussion. Unfortunately, there is no definitive diagnosis or treatment for a traumatic brain injury. But understanding what's going on can help provide some relief.
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of injury that affects the brain. It happens when you hit your head hard. This causes the brain to shake inside the skull. Any of the following situations or events can cause a concussion:
Other types of accidents
Symptoms of a concussion can vary but can include:
Some people may experience a loss of consciousness, but many people do not. These symptoms can appear right after the injury. However, they can also develop over time.
That's why it's important to monitor symptoms after a head injury. If you notice something off, seek medical attention immediately. A doctor can perform concussion tests to determine the extent of the injury and recommend treatment. This might include tests that gauge memory and reasoning; sometimes, they involve hearing, balance, and coordination.
Treatment for a concussion typically involves rest and avoiding activities that could cause further injury to the brain. Unfortunately, there's no pill or a specific type of recovery plan we can implement that can "cure" a concussion.
As symptoms improve, it may be possible to resume normal activities gradually, but it's important to follow a doctor's recommendations to avoid re-injury. Most people recover from a concussion with few long-term effects with proper treatment and care.
Symptoms of an Untreated Concussion
What if you don't realize you have a concussion? Sometimes, people don't experience an apparent head injury yet still feel symptoms of something that appears to be a concussion.
Recognizing the symptoms of a concussion is essential to getting prompt medical attention and starting the recovery process.
Symptoms of a concussion can vary from person to person. It's important to watch for any changes in behavior or cognition after a head injury. Some signs to look out for include the symptoms mentioned above. Other concussion symptoms may not be immediately apparent and can develop over time. These can include:
Sensitivity to light and sound
Inability to stay awake
Difficulty with balance and coordination
Again, though, what if you don't remember having a head injury or you were unconscious when it happened? Monitor your symptoms. If they continue or worsen after a day or two, schedule a visit with your doctor. It might not be a concussion, but it's helpful to rule it out regardless.
Prompt treatment can help prevent long-term complications of a concussion, such as memory problems, mood changes, and chronic headaches. Remember, if you suspect you or someone else may have a concussion, it's better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention.
Dangers of an Untreated Concussion
A concussion can be a serious and potentially life-threatening injury if left untreated. Some of the long-term symptoms of an untreated concussion include:
Sensitivity to light
Untreated concussions can also lead to more serious problems, such as seizures, difficulty sleeping, and even personality changes.
In some cases, people with multiple untreated concussions can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can cause problems with memory, mood, and behavior.
It's important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you or someone else may have a concussion. As you can (hopefully) see, waiting too long to get treatment can lead to more serious problems down the road.
How long do you have to treat a concussion until it's considered an "untreated concussion?" There's no set timeframe for treating a concussion, as the length of the recovery process can vary from person to person. Most people generally recover within a few weeks or months of the injury, although some may take longer.
Ultimately, the rule of thumb is to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect a concussion, as (as mentioned) early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term complications.
Treating Your Concussion
As mentioned, there is, unfortunately, no "total cure" for a traumatic brain injury. Instead, the goal is to avoid long-term complications and ease TBI symptoms. As part of this process, it's helpful to understand the three phases of concussion treatment and recovery.
Acute Symptomatic Phase
The acute symptomatic phase is the first stage of the concussion recovery process. During this phase, the individual may experience several symptoms. This phase typically lasts less than three days and goes on until the patient experiences the "peak" of their symptoms.
The goal during this phase is to manage symptoms and support the brain's natural healing process. Treatment typically involves near-complete rest, avoiding activities that could cause further injury, and sometimes medication to help manage symptoms like headaches (however, it's important to avoid medications that could cause further bleeding).
If you experience more severe symptoms such as seizures, vomiting, inability to stay awake, or persistent double vision, it's important to go to the emergency room. If not, you can resume light thinking and activity after about two days. This includes listening to music or watching TV.
Next is the recovery phase. During this phase, symptoms often begin to improve. The focus shifts to gradually reintroducing normal activities.
Depending on the extent of the injury, this recovery phase may last several weeks to several months. Treatment during this phase often involves a step-by-step plan to gradually reintroduce activities like school or work, exercise, and social activities.
The main goal of this phase is to safely return to normal activities without risking re-injury or exacerbating symptoms. Doctors may recommend certain modifications to activities. This might include gradual increases in exercise or limiting screen time when symptoms worsen.
It's important to remember that every person's recovery process is unique, and some people may take longer to recover than others. Patience and following your doctor's recommendations are key to a safe and successful recovery.
Finally, we have the recovered phase. During this phase, symptoms should have resolved. The patient will be able to return to their normal level of functioning.
This means that they are no longer experiencing major symptoms. They should also be able to return to normal activities without experiencing symptoms or taking long breaks.
Some healthcare providers may recommend cognitive or physical testing to help determine if someone has fully "recovered" from a concussion. These tests can help track changes in cognitive processing and physical abilities over time.
Concussion Treatment Options
Aside from the abovementioned process, what can you do to treat a concussion? We suggest tracking your symptoms. Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your healthcare provider identify any changes in your condition. This will allow you to adjust treatment or activity recommendations accordingly.
Tracking patterns and severity of symptoms can also help indicate if certain activities or tasks are making symptoms worse and should be avoided.
In addition to tracking physical symptoms, keeping track of how you feel emotionally is important. Many people experience anxiety or difficulty with concentration following a traumatic brain injury. Tracking these issues can help identify issues that need further evaluation or treatment.
We’re Here to Help
At Power of Patients, we wish we could fully eliminate pain and frustration for TBI and mental health survivors. However, we do provide them with a ground-breaking online tool to help manage these conditions.
We are also committed to driving research in both fields. Power of Patients is especially concerned with improving the welfare of those suffering from debilitating symptoms caused by a TBI. This includes those suffering from an untreated concussion.
Using the Power of Patients customized symptom tracker to track one’s symptoms and healing will help you and your clinician understand your symptoms in a broader context and allow Power of Patients to use your information to study effective treatments for TBI patients. Overall, it is a win-win situation for patients, caregivers, clinicians, and medical researchers.
See how Power of Patient’s symptom tracker can help you or your loved one today! Register now to see how it works. We are here with you through every step of your journey.