What are common symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

TBI symptoms vary depending on:

  • The type of injury
  • How severe the injury is
  • What area of the brain is injured

TBI injuries can be both local (the exact place on the brain where the injury occurred) and include the surrounding tissues, which can also be affected by the damage to the initial site. This means that some symptoms appear right away, while others may appear several days or even weeks later and evolve over time. A person with TBI may or may not lose consciousness. Loss of consciousness, sometimes called a blackout, does not necessarily mean the TBI is severe, especially if the blackout lasts for only a short time. Learn about treatments for TBI.

A person with a mild TBI may experience any of the following:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus
  • Tiredness or sleepiness
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • A change in sleep habits
  • Behavior or mood changes
  • Trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking
  • Loss of consciousness lasting a few seconds to minutes1
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Nausea or vomiting2

A person with moderate or severe TBI may have some of the symptoms listed for mild TBI. In addition, the person may experience any of the following:

  • Headache that gets worse or will not go away
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Repeated vomiting or continued nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • An inability to wake up from sleep
  • Enlargement of the pupil (dark center) of one or both eyes
  • Numbness or tingling of arms or legs
  • Uncoordinated or “clumsy” movements
  • Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation
  • Loss of consciousness lasting a few minutes to hours3

A person who suffers a blow to the head or other injury that may cause a TBI should seek medical attention, even if none of the symptoms listed are present.4 Sometimes symptoms do not appear until well after the injury.

Citations

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019). Traumatic brain injury (TBI) information page. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Information-Page
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). TBI: Symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/symptoms.html
  3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2020). Traumatic brain injury: Hope through research. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Hope-Through
  4. American Academy of Family Physicians. (2018). Traumatic brain injury: Symptoms. Retrieved March 20, 2020, from https://familydoctor.org/condition/traumatic-brain-injury/ external link

 

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