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Effects of brain injury

The effects of a brain injury can be wide ranging and depend on factors such as the type, location and severity of the injury. Every person's injury is unique, and they may experience any number of the symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.

Changes to Perception, Memory, Judgement or Reasoning
Skills such as speed of thought, memory, understanding, concentration and solving problems may be affected. These "cognitive" effects of a brain injury affect the way a person thinks, learns and remembers. The extent of these changes depends on which areas of the brain have been affected.

Headway West MidlandsCommunication problems
Communication problems after brain injury are very common. Although most of us take it for granted, the ability to communicate (both speaking and understanding speech) uses many different parts of the brain and very complex interactions within the brain.



Emotional and behavioural changes

People who have had a brain injury can be left with changes in their emotional reactions and behaviour. These effects can be less obvious than, for example, changes in mobility or speech. Emotional and behavioural changes can be the most difficult effects for a survivor and their family to deal with. These may include:

Agitation
Explosive anger and irritability
Lack of awareness and insight (a lack of understanding of other people's actions or feelings)
Impulsivity and disinhibition
Emotional stability (for example, over-reacting in some situations)
Self-centredness
Apathy and poor motivation
Depression
Anxiety
Inflexibility and obsessive behaviours
Sexual problems

Changes in "Executive" functions after brain injury
Damage to thinking and planning is common after acquired brain injury and can have a big effect on many aspects of everyday life. These may include an individual's capacity for:

Planning and organisation
Flexible thinking (being able to alter one's behaviour)
Multi-tasking
Solving unusual problems
Self-awareness
Learning rules
Making decisions
Using appropriate behaviour and holding back inappropriate behaviour, particularly in social situations
Controlling emotions
Concentrating and taking in information

"Executive dysfunction" is the clinical term that refers to disruption of some or all of the things listed above. This often occurs after injury to the frontal lobes of the brain (the forehead).

Physical effects of brain injury
A good physical recovery after a brain injury often means there are few or no outward signs that an injury has occurred. However, there can be problems present that are not always so immediately visible, but which can have a real impact on daily life. These may include:

Problems with movement, balance and co-ordination
Dyspraxia - the inability to plan and perform purposeful movements
Loss of sensation (including vision, hearing, taste and smell)
Tiredness (fatigue)
Headaches
Speaking and swallowing disorders - dysphasia, dysphagia, dysarthria etc.
Bladder and bowel incontinence
Epilepsy - abnormal electrical discharge in the brain which may involve
seizures or fits

Hormonal imbalances and pituitary dysfunction after brain injury
Brain injury may occasionally cause damage that can lead to the release of not enough or too much of one or more hormones. The effects of such an injury are many and varied because of the large number of hormones that can be affected. Some symptoms are similar to the more common effects of brain injury hence why hormonal effects may be under-diagnosed.





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