Whenever accidents or injuries occur, there is always a concern for the residual effects. Prospects of surgery, rehabilitation, or discomfort are never welcome. But for many people, 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 to 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 us to use. But when the brain is the injured body part, any one of these senses can be impacted.
Sometimes the 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. 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.
Types & Causes of Sensory Loss After 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.
Let’s take a closer look at the types and causes of sensory loss that can happen after a brain injury.
- 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 occurs 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 prolonged ringing in the ears, a condition called tinnitus. Luckily with the advancement of technology, devices such as cochlear implants and hearing aids can help those who 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 the smell is the strongest sense in connection with our memories. So when one becomes damaged, the other usually 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 lie 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 such as 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, please seek medical supervision immediately.
The physician may order an MRI in order to determine if there is bleeding in or around the brain. Newer MRI techniques are now being developed to evaluate traumatic brain injuries. DTI is an advanced brain imaging procedure that can measure the extent of a brain injury when other tests are negative and symptoms persist. Learn more about these exams at theconcussiongroup.com.