Are there different types of concussion?

The word concussion can sometimes be thrown about and thought of as an injury which is not that serious however that isn’t always the case. Although cases can be mild, a serious concussion can have long lasting effects and can severely impact the patients quality of life. 

Mild symptoms can be treated at home although if there is any doubt about the patient and their symptoms immediate medical attention should be sought. Tests may be needed to rule out a more serious injury. 

What is a concussion? 

A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in a temporary loss of normal brain functions. Many concussions are caused by a sudden and direct blow to the head, typically from a trip, a fall from height or a road traffic accident.

Contrary to popular belief you do not always lose consciousness when a concussion is sustained. 

What are the different types of concussion?

Concussions are graded as mild, moderate or severe depending on the severity of the injury and your symptoms. 

Mild –

With a mild concussion there is no loss of consciousness. Symptoms tend to be very mild and last for a short amount of time. 

Typical symptoms are – 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of balance
  • Initial confusion which clears quickly

Moderate –

A moderate concussion normally does not entail a loss of consciousness. Again symptoms vary but last longer than a mild concussion. 

Typical symptoms are – 

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion

Symptoms are similar to a mild concussion but do tend to be more intense and painful. 

Severe –

A severe concussion results in a loss of consciousness. An MRI or CT Scan may be needed to ensure that there is no bleeding on the brain. Symptoms of a severe concussion can last for days or even weeks. 

Typical symptoms are – 

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance 
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Sensitivity to light and noise

Treatment for concussion

Mild symptoms can be treated at home although if there is any doubt about the patient and their symptoms immediate medical attention should be sought. Tests may be needed to rule out a more serious injury. 

To help speed up your recovery time – 

  • Rest – Rest is key to recovering from a concussion to give your brain time to heal. 
  • Limit screen time – Using screens can strain our eyes which could prolong your recovery time. 
  • Resuming activities – Once you start to feel better and your symptoms subside you should gradually increase your activity. 
  • Contact sports – You should avoid all contact sports until you are completely recovered. 

Complications  

Complications can follow on from a moderate to severe concussion. 

Post Concussive Syndrome – This is a syndrome that occurs after a concussion where the symptoms can last for months after the initial injury. 

Symptoms include – 

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Noise and light sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability. 

Studies have shown that age and gender play a role in whether a patient is more likely to develop post concussive syndrome. 

Age – The older a person is at the time of the initial injury the more likely there are to develop this syndrome. 

Gender – Women are shown to be at a higher risk than men. 

There are currently no medications that can be used to treat the cognitive symptoms of post concussive syndrome.

As the saying goes, time is the best healer. However in some cases doctors will prescribe antidepressants or antianxiety medication to help with anxiety if it is present. 

Second Impact Syndrome – This is where a new concussion is sustained before the initial injury has healed.

It is common amongst those that play contact sports where they have resumed their activities before they are completely recovered.

Second Impact Syndrome is rare but is nearly always fatal. Those that do survive are normally left with disabilities. 

The second impact does not have to be strong. Even a small blow to the head which causes the brain to move inside the skull can suddenly cause the brain to swell rapidly.

Symptoms will appear suddenly and within a few minutes can be devastating – 

  • Loss of eye movement
  • Dilated pupils
  • Respiratory failure
  • Loss of consciousness

Immediate medical attention must be sought as the patient will need an emergency CT scan to assess the amount of brain swelling that is present. 

So although in many cases a concussion will be mild and leave no lasting impact it is always advised to seek medical attention to ensure the best chance for a full and quick recovery.

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