Dr. Jose Pizarro Explains the Diagnosis and Treatment of Concussions

Concussions can be a serious medical problem. Any type of head trauma can result in a concussion, which can have extensive medical consequences for the victim. Repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage and severe chronic conditions.

Dr. Jose Pizarro, a neuroradiologist from Longboat Key, Florida, explains the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, including some serious conditions that can result from repeated concussions.

What is a Concussion?

Dr. Jose Pizarro from Longboat Key, Florida, on Concussions

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury affecting your brain function. The effects of a concussion are generally temporary, but they can cause problems with headaches, concentration, memory loss, balance, and coordination.

A blow to the head is the most common cause of a concussion. Violent shaking of the upper body and head, such as that which occurs during a car accident, can also result in a concussion.

Sometimes, a concussion will cause you to lose consciousness, but most of the time, they do not. Falling is the most common cause, but contact sports are another serious problem. Football and soccer are two of the sports that are most likely to cause a concussion. While concussions can be serious, most people do fully recover.

Symptoms of a Concussion

Concussion symptoms may be subtle, and they may not be noticed right away. Symptoms can last for a few days or can persist for weeks or months.

The most common symptoms are headaches, amnesia, and confusion. Amnesia usually means that the patient forgets the event that caused the injury.

Physical symptoms of the concussion can be used for diagnosis. You may have a headache, ringing in the ears, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, drowsiness, and blurry vision.

You may feel confused as if you are in a fog. You may not remember the traumatic event. You may also be dizzy or “see stars.”

Witnesses may be able to spot the signs of a concussion before the patient. These signs include a temporary faint, slurred speech, dazed appearance, delayed response to questions, and forgetfulness.

Lingering symptoms of a concussion may persist for days, weeks, or months. These symptoms include irritability, sensitivity to light and sound, sleep problems, psychological problems, difficulty with taste and smell, and concentration and memory complaints.

Concussion Symptoms in Young Children

Head trauma is common in young children, but they may not have the vocabulary or ability to express their feelings. If you suspect that your child has a concussion, look for:

● Listlessness, tiring easily

● Dazed appearance

● Irritability

● Loss of balance

● Lack of interest in toys

● Seizures

● Vomiting

When You Should See a Doctor

You should always see a doctor within 1 to 2 days if you or your child experiences a head injury. The doctor can let you know whether the symptoms are from a concussion or not.

The criteria for emergency care of a concussion are as follows. First, repeated vomiting or nausea should be reported to a doctor. If the patient lost consciousness for more than 30 seconds, emergency care is needed. A doctor should examine headaches that worsen over time. If the patient has any fluid draining from the ears or nose, see a doctor.

In addition, vision or eye disturbances should be looked at right away. These include a change in pupil size.

Diagnosis of a Concussion

Your doctor will look at your symptoms and give you a neurological examination. Symptoms may not appear for days after the injury. The tests that may be run include neurological examinations, imaging tests, and cognitive testing.

Vision, hearing, strength, sensation, reflexes, coordination, and balance testing are all included in a neurological evaluation. Cognitive testing is also required. Memory, concentration, and recall are tested.

An essential component of concussion diagnosis is imaging testing. Brain imaging may be ordered for people with severe headaches, repeated vomiting, seizures, or other concerning symptoms. Brain imaging can help the doctor discover whether the patient has a severe injury with swelling or bleeding inside the skull.

The types of imaging tests used to gauge the severity of concussions include the CT or cranial computerized tomography scan and MRI or magnetic resonance imaging.

Treatment of a Concussion

Most commonly, physical and mental rest is prescribed to concussion patients. Relative rest includes limiting activities that may be mentally taxing, including watching TV, playing video games, or reading, especially if these activities make your concussion feel worse. Physical activities should also be avoided. Patients can return to normal activities gradually.

Preventing Concussions

Dr. Jose Pizarro from Longboat Key, Florida, Discusses Prevention

While accidents can happen during any activity, there are concrete steps that you can take to reduce your chances of getting a concussion. It is necessary to wear a seatbelt in the car at all times. Put your child in an approved car seat or booster seat. Wear a well-fitting helmet when skating, biking, horseback riding, and playing contact sports.

Prevent falls by installing safety gates and handrails. Install window guards to prevent children from falling out. Reduce slipping and tripping hazards around your home.

Expert Treatment is Necessary

If you have experienced the symptoms of a concussion, it is important to see a doctor. Even if the symptoms are mild, your doctor will want to monitor you and make sure that they do not get any worse.

For most people, a concussion is a minor injury that resolves itself over time with rest and relaxation. For others, the problem can be much more serious. Repeated concussions can cause CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, often found in football players. This condition can cause personality changes and dementia.

Dr. Jose Pizarro encourages all patients who have experienced a blow to the head to see their doctors, even if they have not experienced severe symptoms.

Dr. Jose Pizarro is a radiologist and currently evaluates Diffusion Tensor Imaging and the effects of trauma on thousands of patients every year.

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