If you suffer a blow to the head, but it doesn’t seem severe, you may feel tempted to ignore it. Doing so could put you at risk for a variety of medical problems, some of which have long-lasting effects. Even if the pain goes away and your other symptoms seem trivial or you feel no symptoms at all, any blow to the head can be serious with a possible brain injury. Only a proper medical exam and testing can tell you what effects you’ve suffered, if any. Here are some of the problems that even a mild head injury can cause:
Even minor blows to the head may affect your thinking ability. This can happen even if you are not diagnosed with concussion, and even if the injury seems too trivial to worry about. If you are a young person, such shocks can damage the “white matter” in your brain. White matter is the connecting material that carries information from one part of your brain to another. You may not be aware of the damage unless you take a standardized test of thinking ability.
If you suffer a concussion, even a mild one, your memory can be affected for as long as a week. You may have trouble calling up old memories or forming new ones, or both. Your memory loss will most likely be more severe if you ignore the injury and return to vigorous activity too quickly.
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If you feel muddled, disoriented, or “spaced out”, or can’t speak in a clear manner, don’t ignore it. If these feelings persist or recur, you may have a brain injury. Sometimes the confusion is the only symptom you will notice. Only a medical examination can tell you if you have an injury.
You may think of Alzheimer’s as a disease of older people, but that’s not always the case. A head injury can trigger a build-up of amyloid plaques in your brain — a defining marker of Alzheimer’s — even if you aren’t elderly. This increases your long-term risk of dementia and brain inflammations, which may develop years after you’ve forgotten all about the head injury.
Brain injury puts you at greater risk of developing clinical depression. Clinical depression is different from just feeling sad when you have something real upsetting you, which is normal. It’s a medical condition in which you suffer constant gloom for no obvious reason. Depression includes irritability, anxiety, inability to enjoy anything, and other symptoms. It can take a while to develop after your injury, and persist.
Even a head impact that doesn’t cause concussion can give you blurred or double vision. This happens because the shock disrupts your brain’s fine-tuned control over the muscles that move your eyes. So, that they can’t adjust for the distance of whatever you’re seeing. If the effect is slight, you might not even notice unless you pay close attention to your vision or take a vision test.