JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
During the month of March, military medical professionals focus on raising awareness of the symptoms, side effects and the importance of diagnosing brain injuries in recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries can be classified into three categories; mild, moderate and severe. A brain injury can be caused by a strike to a person’s head with a force that quickly accelerates and then rapidly decelerates the brain inside the cranium. This force causes micro-damage to nerves in the brain resulting in potential irritability, concentration problems, headaches, dizziness, imbalance and problems with smell or hearing senses.
“The biggest thing we try to emphasize is screening for TBI and diagnosing it early-on,” said Dr. David Weber, 633rd Medical Group behavioral health psychiatrist. “I’ve seen a number of patients who have suffered from symptoms for years and when we look back into their history, we find definitive change points caused by brain injury.”
Many patients suffering from a TBI are often diagnosed after treatment at behavioral health clinics for mental health issues, such as mood disorders, depression, anxiety, irritability, marital problems, increased drinking and substance abuse.
“Many patients resort to drinking and substance abuse in their own attempts to treat their symptoms of anxiety and depression, that they may not know are connected to brain injury,” said Weber. “So when patients come in, first, we evaluate if a brain injury is a contributing factor, and then we’ll refer them to a neuropsychologist or neurologist to further evaluate for the brain injury and initiate a treatment plan.”
Treating a TBI takes a team of specialists, including primary care physicians, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, speech and cognition therapists, occupational therapists and visual specialists. Treatment can also involve family members, who aid in the diagnosis and healing process.
“Oftentimes we will confer with families to help with the treatment plan because they can see the change in the person that the person may not see in themselves,” said Weber. “The changes that occur are sudden but can progress and become more bothersome over time. The families will see the change so they can give us the best insight on the symptoms.”
Mild brain injuries typically resolve within 30 minutes and display symptoms such as being dazed and confused. However, multiple mild brain injuries over time, especially a second injury within seven days of the first injury, can result in increased symptoms, side effects and more severe long term outcomes.
Medical professionals emphasize the importance of speaking to a physician and diagnosing a suspecting injury as soon as possible to improve chances of healing.
“If you suspect you’ve had a head injury and are experiencing any symptoms, please go to your primary care doctor as soon as possible and get it assessed,” said Weber. “It’s not enough to just receive mental health treatment, we have to get other professionals involved to improve quality of life.”
Additional information about traumatic brain injury and Brain Injury Awareness Month can be found at www.biausa.org, or www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury.