Acquired brain injury (ABI) is often called the invisible disability. For many people suffering from its effects, everyday life is a struggle.
Several factors, including fetal alcohol poisoning, can cause a baby to be born with brain damage. But, ABI is defined as a brain injury acquired after birth. These can take place through one of two forms.
The first of these are closed brain injuries, which result in breaking of blood vessels and brain tissue. Most brain damage caused by car accidents is of the closed brain variety. Babies who have been severely shaken can suffer from these types of injuries as well.
Penetrating brain injuries are defined as those where the skull casing is no longer intact. Examples would include gunshots and severe head trauma.
When an accident first occurs, primary brain injury takes place. That includes concussions, and tears in neural fiber as the brain moves, crashing against the inside of the skull.
A violent blow, as when a head hits a steering wheel in a car accident, can damage a person’s brain through a process called a coup-countercoup. Damage to the brain caused directly by the blow (usually into a steering wheel or dashboard in auto accidents) is called a coup lesion. The brain then recoils, sloshing into the opposite side of the brain, which can create a countercoup lesion. Side-to-side motion of the brain can cause tearing and swelling of the brain.
The days to months after such an injury can be dramatic for the victim. With proper treatment, most will go on to lead healthy, productive lives. A few unfortunate people, however, will develop secondary brain damage. These are cause when the brain attempts to fix itself, but damaged parts never work correctly after the injury.
Some of the most common causes of acquired brain injury in adults living in the United States include auto accidents, violent attacks from another person, or falling. Babies are quite often the victims of this terrible affliction from being shaken.
Effects of ABI can be physical, emotional, or cognitive. Symptoms can include tremors, poor coordination and balance, or changes in taste and smell. Victims may not be able to identify shapes or faces. Aphasia, a condition where people cannot recall words, and unconsciously use others, is common after an acquired brain injury.
In severe cases, victims may become unable to take care of themselves. They could need assistance with dressing, bathing and shopping for years, or even the rest of their lives. Some of those who suffer through ABI become depressed, while others develop sudden violent outbursts.
This is a silent disability that needs attention.