Identifying Head Injury Symptoms

Posted on January 26, 2022

Head injuries range from a bump on the head to a skull fracture. Some head injuries are severe enough to cause brain damage or even death.

It is possible to treat a bump or mild injury at home, however, it is important to know the signs and symptoms and when to see a doctor.

Knowing the symptoms of a concussion and some simple first aid can help people respond to a head injury quickly, reducing the chances of complications.

Types: A head injury may present different symptoms.

There are a variety of head injury types, and the injury can be more or less severe within each category.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when the brain is injured, usually because of an accident. A person may have a TBI if an object hits their head, or if an object penetrates the brain through the skull.

Some examples include falling from a great height onto the head, a ball hitting the head at high speed, or having a gunshot wound. Violent shaking of the head can also cause a TBI, as the brain can bounce or twist in the skull. These cases are often related to whiplash.

A TBI damages the brain, usually causing a blood clot or bruising. A blood clot in the brain is known as an intracranial hematoma (ICH). An ICH can be more or less severe depending on its size and location in the brain.

Symptoms: A head injury may present different symptoms depending on its severity.

Symptoms of a mild head injury include:

  • some bleeding and bruising
  • a mild headache
  • mild dizziness
  • amnesia (memory loss) of events before the injury and immediately after it 
  • feeling sick or nauseated 
  • slow reflexes

A concussion is a form of TBI that temporarily stops the brain from functioning normally. Symptoms of a concussion are not always serious or long-lasting but may cause complications.

Key symptoms of a concussion include:

  • confusion
  • nausea
  • feeling groggy
  • a headache
  • blurred vision 
  • dislike of noise or light
  • balance problems
  • difficulty concentrating

Symptoms of a moderate head injury include: The damage to the brain tissue creates pressure and swelling on the skull. This pressure is known as ICP (intracranial pressure).

  • vomiting
  • dilated pupil
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal breathing
  • a lasting headache
  • loss of balance 
  • memory problems
  • passing out for a short time
  • confusion or distraction
  • temporary changes in behavior

Symptoms of a severe head injury include:

The skull is made of very hard, thick bone designed to protect the brain from injuries. However, it is possible to break or fracture the skull with a hard impact. If the skull breaks and the bone or another object punctures the brain, a doctor will refer to the injury like an open head injury or penetrating head injury.

  • significant bleeding
  • having a seizure
  • difficulty staying alert or awake difficulty speaking
  • slurred speech, lasting headache
  • bruises behind the ears
  • weakness or numbness
  • problems with vision, taste, or smell
  • passing out and not waking up
  • clear fluid or blood coming out of the ears or nose 

Moderate and severe head injuries require immediate treatment. If the symptoms of a mild head injury last for more than 2 weeks, a person should also seek medical advice.

The symptoms of a concussion do not always appear immediately. Sometimes, a person may develop initial symptoms days or weeks after the injury.

People should always take head injuries seriously. If someone is concerned about their symptoms, even after a mild injury, they should speak to a doctor.