What Are the Long-Term Effects of Concussion?
A concussion is an injury that occurs to the brain after rapid movements. Typically, what causes a concussion may include a bump, a hit to the body, or a jolt to the head. Many concussions come with aftereffects, which may be short-term or continue for years in severe cases. After a concussion trauma, you should seek an immediate medical assessment to diagnose your condition professionally.
A concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury, often resulting in an altered mental state. Some common symptoms of concussions include headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. People also report balance problems, difficulty walking, and speech impediments. You can alleviate most side effects of a concussion with proper treatments, including regular physiotherapy sessions.
Healing from a concussion requires patience and care. With time, many people successfully manage their condition and make full recoveries. Let's learn about the different long-term effects of concussions.
What Is Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)?
After incurring a concussion, you may experience a condition called post-concussion syndrome. Also known as PCS, this term describes when the concussion symptoms are long-term and do not recover in the expected period. The post-concussion syndrome can last for months, affecting multiple systems in the body. For most people, PCS slowly gets better with time with ongoing concussion management.
If a person has only received a single concussion, it is unlikely there will be severe complications. The probability is even lower among young individuals. However, there could be long-term effects with multiple concussions. The patient faces increased risks of brain issues, such as permanent memory damage or dementia. If you continue to get concussions, you may experience chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive brain disease.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a severe condition, most common among athletes in certain sports. Fortunately, many concussions do not escalate to this intensity with proper treatments. For most people, the side effects should slowly get better with time. Nonetheless, you may still face some persistent symptoms after a concussion.
Concussion Symptom #1: Headaches
Headaches are typical side effects of a concussion, at least during the initial days. These headaches may continue for a long time, sometimes recurring for years. They are often known as post-traumatic or post-concussion headaches.
Studies suggest that over half of people affected by concussions encounter headaches as a long-term effect. The headaches often occur with other symptoms, such as dizziness and photophobia (also known as sensitivity to light). If the headaches are persistent, consult a medical professional for your post-concussion treatment.
Concussion Symptom #2: Sleep difficulty
Sleep disturbances are common long-term effects of a concussion. You may see an increased need to sleep or suffer restlessness at night. As a result, you may experience chronic fatigue due to ongoing sleep deprivation.
Long-term sleep issues are regular among people who have previously experienced a concussion. This symptom occurs because the brain trauma has affected the neurons that regulate sleep-wake cycles. In turn, there is a disruption to the circadian rhythm maintenance.
Concussion Symptom #3: Memory loss
A concussion can cause memory loss that lasts months or years. Short-term and long-term memory loss may relate to underlying CTE or the development of dementia. A traumatic brain injury increases the risk of encountering dementia.
Many people restore their memories within seven to ten days after the concussion. They also do not experience further memory loss symptoms. However, others struggle to regain their memories for years after the trauma. The recovery speed varies depending on the individual.
Concussion Symptom #4: Personality changes
After a concussion, some people encounter slight changes in personality and temperament. They may face increased aggression, persistent anxiety, loss of impulse control, paralyzing apathy, and even suicidal ideation. These personality changes occur because a concussion alters the brain chemistry, rewiring how you think or feel. Of course, your personality may also change due to other factors unrelated to concussion symptoms.
Concussion Symptom #5: Anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are common symptoms after a concussion. Fortunately, they often go away after a while. For most people, these feelings subside within three months. If you have a history of mental health struggles or emotional dysfunction, the conditions may resurface and last a year or more.
If you suffer a concussion, make sure you take care of your mental health in the aftermath. Consider speaking to your loved ones or a professional counsellor for support and guidance.
Concussion Symptom #6: Smell and taste problems
A severe concussion can lead to a permanent loss of taste and smell. These issues occur because of the dysfunction tied to the receptors in your brain. Up to 25% of people who suffered a concussion experience reduced taste or smell. For some, the sensations return after some time. For others, their capacity to taste or smell remains limited.
Concussion Symptom #7: Health problems
A concussion may come with various long-term side effects on your health. Suffering a concussion can increase the risk of developing tinnitus or Parkinson's disease. These symptoms may interfere with daily living, including tremors and body stiffness.
Another post-concussion syndrome is the increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Tied to memory loss and cognitive impairment, patients with Alzheimer's eventually get to the point where they struggle to complete everyday tasks.