How Does a Head Injury Result in Sensory Loss?

Whenever accidents or injuries occur, there is always concern for the residual effects. Prospects of surgery, rehabilitation, or discomfort are never welcome but for many the problems that come after a traumatic injury can be even more debilitating. Ask any physician and they will readily tell you that the worse kind of injuries to treat are those that affect the head. Because the brain is such a complex and unpredictable organ, the effects and ramifications of injuries to the brain can be difficult to determine or map with consistency.

There are a number of factors that help doctors determine the extent and condition of the brain after an injury occurs including:

  • the severity of the injury
  • the location of the injury
  • the medical response the injury (response time / procedures / medicines)
  • the rate of recovery

There are five senses and each can have different effects after a traumatic brain injury occurs. Sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch are the ways that our brain receives information and then interprets that information for our usage. But when the brain is the injured body part, any one of these senses can be altered. Sometimes direct impact is not even needed to create an injury, sometimes just the shaking or rattling of the brain inside the skull can be enough to cause damage. When this occurs, the brain can begin to swell or bleed and because of the limited area within the cranial cavity, the brain has no space to relieve the pressure or release the blood and as such, damage ensues or worse, death occurs.

Let’s take a closer look at the types and causes of sensory loss that can happen after a brain injury.

To begin, the brain is divided into different sections. The different sections control different functions of the body and interpret different signals so certain injuries will exhibit themselves in different parts of the brain. The parietal lobe, located at the top of the head, is the part of the brain that interprets sensational signals and tells us where our body is in location to different objects in our surroundings. Injury to this area can be the cause of a sensory loss, particularly in terms of our translation of touch.

Loss of sight or disruption of sight is a common side effect of a traumatic brain injury. The occipital lobe, located at the back of the skull, is the part of the brain that controls one’s ability to see. When the occipital lobe is damaged, effects such as eye muscle weakness or double vision can occur known as diplopia. The sudden inability to optically tolerate light is a common occurrence known as photophobia. Other presentations of an occipital lobe injury include involuntary eye movements (nystagmus) or the loss of vision in one eye (hemianopsia). The loss of sight differs from other senses in that there is a slightly larger possibility of it returning as opposed to hearing or smell that are usually permanent injuries.

Hearing problems are another sensory problem that often occur after an accident or fall. Sometimes normal daily activities can sound unbearably loud. Other common symptoms of brain damage are the inability to filter or recognize sounds or a prolonged ringing in the ears, a condition called tinnitus. Luckily with the advancement of technology, things like cochlear implants and hearing aids can be assistive for those that are dealing with hearing problems.

Smell and taste are two senses that heavily influence each other. Almost 70% of taste is contributed to smell and smell is the strongest sense in connection with our memories. So when one becomes damaged, the other usual suffers as well. Usually if there is a frontal lobe injury, the resulting nerve damage can contribute to a loss of taste. The olfactory bulbs lies beneath the frontal lobe and can be the cause of anosmia, or loss of smell, if injured.

For those that do experience a loss of one of their senses, options like surgery, physical therapy, and counseling should be considered in order to help combat the problem or learning to adjust to life without that sense. If you or someone you know has experienced a serious injury and is complaining of sensory disruption of loss, they should be admitted to medical supervision immediately.

The physician may order an MRI in order to determine bleeding in or around the brain. Newer special MRI techniques are now being developed to evaluate mild traumatic brain injuries. These techniques are called SWI and DTI and are performed as advanced MRI procedures when regular MRI is negative and symptoms are persistent. Doctors Imaging is developing these programs for release in September of 2014.

If you have other questions about sensory loss, brain damage or medical imaging procedures, speak to your physician or radiologist about scheduling a consultation. For more help, visit Doctors Imaging in Metairie, Louisiana or call 504-883-8111.

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