Today is: 
19 January 2018 
 

Brain Damage

 

Issue 7 - May 2013
The human brain is responsible for almost all the body’s functions. The brain controls our speech, movement, sight, hearing, smell, taste, pain, temperature, pressure, memory, will, behaviour, emotions, reasoning, intelligence and judgement. Packed tightly inside the skull to minimise movement, the brain passes messages by means of trillions of neurons. If these message pathways are damaged or inhibited, it causes problems to some or all of the above functions. Brain damage or brain injury causes destruction or deterioration of the brain cells. Brain injuries occur due to both internal and external factors. Internal factors cause damage at cellular level and are known as acquired brain injuries. External factors such as blows to the head cause skull breakage or brain movement and the consequent damage is known as traumatic brain injury. The most common category is traumatic brain injury followed by acquired brain injuries, and then brain injuries due to congenital malady. It is estimated that each year more than one million people in the UK attend hospital A&E due to head injuries while many more go unreported; among these more than 500,000 people aged 16-74 are living with long-term disabilities. The most common causes of head injuries are falls, assaults and road traffic accidents. In the UK children, who have high energy levels and little sense of danger, account for 40-50% of head injuries. Adults aged 75 or older are another high risk group for traumatic brain injuries. There are also more than 650,000 cases of brain injury in the UK caused by internal factors such as stroke, brain tumour, viral and bacterial meningitis and hypoxic injuries such as drug overdose, exposure to toxic substances, heart attacks, near drowning, electrocution and suicide attempts. The severity of the brain damage is categorised as mild, moderate and severe depending on the type of injury. Mild brain damage may cause temporary headaches, confusion, memory problems, and nausea, while in moderate brain damage the symptoms may last longer and be more distinct. In severe brain injuries, life changing and debilitating problems may occur, which consist of cognitive, behavioural, and physical disabilities. The most severe cases can lead to coma or even put the patient into a persistent vegetative state. Mild and moderate brain injuries usually require no treatment other than rest and over the counter painkillers to treat the headache. However the injured patient should be monitored closely for any persistent, worsening or new symptoms. In severe brain injuries the immediate priority is to make sure that the patient has an adequate oxygen and blood supply. To limit secondary damage to the brain medication therapy is necessary. These drugs include diuretics which help reduce the pressure inside the brain by increasing urine output and anti-seizure drugs which reduce the chance of having seizures during the first week. In some cases surgery may be needed to remove probable clotted blood, repair skull fractures or to open a window in the skull to let the accumulated cerebral spinal fluid drain out or to provide more room for the swelling tissue. By Laleh Lohrasbi
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