After a traumatic brain injury, you may experience cognitive, emotional, and physical dysfunctions that you didn't have before. While you can't repair damage to brain cells, you might be able to rewire your brain and build new pathways. Some side effects will be permanent, but it's possible that new treatments like stem cell therapy can improve your function and help you feel more like yourself.
What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is any injury to the brain caused by a blow, jolt, or bump. In these instances, the brain can bounce around inside the skull, causing physical damage to cells. Sharp blows can also cause chemical changes in the brain, leading to further damage.
In its mildest forms, you might hear it called a concussion. Concussions typically aren't life-threatening, and your brain can usually heal on its own after a few weeks. That said, they can still be serious, especially if you've had a few throughout your life. You might start to experience problems with memory and concentration or have problems with balance. Headaches and nausea are also common.
Things become more dangerous if you suffer a moderate to severe TBI. When this happens, your brain is seriously damaged. You might experience more troubling symptoms like:
- Seizures and convulsions
- Slurred speech
- Intense nausea and vomiting
- Loss of coordination
- Being unable to wake up from sleep
- Feeling confused, restless, or agitated
- Having numbness or weakness in the extremities
There are many ways to get a TBI. It might be something as simple as falling or as serious as getting into a car accident. Firearm-related suicide attempts are also linked to high rates of TBI.
Traumatic brain injury symptoms years later
Statistics on traumatic brain injury symptoms years later vary. Still, around 50% of people see positive results regarding their condition, according to the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems National Data and Statistical Center. Around 22% of those injured said their symptoms stayed the same, while 26% saw improvement in their injuries. This means that minimizing permanent damage is possible with the right care from your medical team.
What are the long-term symptoms most TBI patients are noticing? Seizures can be a big problem, with TBI sufferers more likely to suffer from them than the general population. Other health conditions can still have a huge impact on quality of life.
Long-term physical symptoms of a TBI
Some of the biggest problems come in the form of motor deficits and disabilities. You may experience paralysis of your limbs or have uncontrolled muscle spasms throughout the day. Swallowing, talking or even walking may be challenging. Many people also experience persistent headaches, ranging from migraines to tension headaches. Sleep disorders can be common, as they can be tiring more easily.
Long-term cognitive symptoms of a TBI
Mentally, you may also find your mind is shifting from one moment to the next. Problems controlling frustration and anger are common. Many people find it hard to learn new skills, remember things, and process things on the fly. Simple things like reading might now take you twice as long because you have problems with comprehension. Depression and anxiety are also rampant in the TBI community, as are concentration difficulties and confusion.
How to minimize permanent damage
There is some good news surrounding traumatic brain injury symptoms years later — while you may not be able to get rid of them completely, you can minimize them. In fact, coordinated long-term care can help improve your quality of life, daily function, health and even increase your life expectancy.
While long-term care is vital, the best thing you can do to minimize permanent damage after a TBI is to seek immediate emergency care. If you've hit your head hard, don't put off going to the hospital because you think you have a concussion. Even a concussion should be seen to. Often, symptoms can take days to emerge, and by then, the damage may be permanent. Your physician can perform surgery to get rid of blood clots and relieve pressure in the skull. These steps can prevent further damage from happening, so you don't suffer long-term effects.
Once you're out of immediate medical danger and your brain is starting to heal, one of the most important tools at your disposal to minimize permanent damage is rehab. You'll need to work to retrain your brain to do the things it used to know how to do. This will involve repeating certain tasks over and over to help the brain adapt. It will also require you to be steadfast in your treatments — you can't just go hard for a week and then decide that's enough. Consistency over time is key.
Head injury treatment options
After a TBI, your doctor will focus on stabilizing your brain to prevent further damage. Then, once your brain is safe, your treatment protocol will generally be about reducing your systems and helping your brain relearn how to function.
After a TBI, your doctor will likely prescribe you several medications to help your brain heal and reduce lingering symptoms. Keep in mind; these aren't a cure for your issues — they're more like a bandaid to help improve your ability to function. Some of the medications that might help include:
- Stimulants, which can help you stay focused and pay attention better
- Muscle relaxants, which can reduce unwanted muscle spasms
- Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help stabilize your mood and improve your depression
- Anticonvulsants to lower your chances of having a seizure
- Anticoagulants to lower your chances of developing blood clots.
Physical, occupational and speech therapy
Therapy is a must after TBI. That's because you'll need to rewire the pathways in your brain. Basically, think of it like this. Your brain likes to use certain trails to get to certain destinations. Your TBI was like a big storm that washed out the trails, meaning they're now impassable. However, the final destinations still exist. Your brain needs to find a new way to get there. Therapy helps you redirect your route to healthy parts of the brain.
Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can all help you with that. If you're facing motor limitations, they'll teach you how to move and speak again. In physical therapy, you'll work on developing your muscles through repetition and overcoming imbalances. Occupational therapy focuses more on activities of daily living, like brushing your teeth or cooking meals. And in speech therapy, you'll practice pronunciation and relearning words to help master language once again.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy is a promising new type of treatment that has shown amazing results for patients with neurological conditions. To understand how the treatment works, you first need to understand what stem cells are.
Stem cells are starter cells that can convert themselves into any other type of cell. You have a ton of stem cells in your body as an embryo, as the embryo needs them as it starts to grow. As an adult, you still have some stem cells, but these are spread throughout the body and don't function similarly.
However, by harnessing your body's stem cells, BioXcellerator has created a new treatment that can help to heal the brain after a TBI. The treatment is a week-long process during which your stem cells are collected. Then, they are inserted into the brain to help facilitate new growth. It's a completely natural treatment using only your body's own cells.
One reason this technique is so promising is that stem cells can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Normally the brain's cells create a barrier to keep out foreign particles and compounds. It's a natural defense meant to protect against pathogens, but unfortunately, in the case of TBI, it also usually means that helpful drugs can't always make it through to help the brain heal. Stem cells, however, can get through, meaning they're one of the only treatments that can help initiate repairs in the brain.
Overall, stem cell therapy can decrease inflammation, encourage repairs of damaged tissue, improve cell-to-cell communications and even stimulate the growth of new blood vessels to help improve blood flow in the brain.
Consider stem cell therapy to improve your TBI symptoms
Recovering from a TBI is a long and winding road. It will take a lot of work and patience on your part, but if you put in the effort, you'll find the benefits are worth it.
Stem cell therapy may be one way to help you get where you want to go. To see if it's an option, get in touch with one of our patient advocates today. They can help you learn more about how BioXcellerator's stem cell therapy works and if it's the right treatment option for you.