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Delayed Concussion Symptoms

You may experience a range of symptoms in the weeks and months after a traumatic brain injury. Delayed and persistent symptoms after a concussion are normal. After brain trauma, your brain changes as your injury worsens, then heals.

Here are some reasons you may experience delayed concussion symptoms.

How Concussions Happen

Your brain sits inside your skull cushioned by a layer of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The skull protects your brain from direct impacts. The CSF slows down the motion of your brain so that it does not strike the inside of your skull.

These layers of protection fail when you undergo significant acceleration or deceleration.

Some examples of accidents where your brain suddenly accelerates or decelerates include:

Importantly, a concussion does not require head trauma. The acceleration and deceleration inside the CSF can cause a concussion regardless of whether you hit your head or not.

The CSF has a viscosity slightly thicker than water. In a minor accident, this slows the motion of your brain so that it does not get damaged. But under severe acceleration or deceleration, the brain moves through the CSF with such force that the pressure of the CSF squeezes the brain.

A boat moving through water creates a wave at its bow. In the same way, the brain moving through the CSF creates a wave in the direction of its motion. The wave of water resists movement of the boat just as the CSF resists movement of the brain.

This pressure wave causes widespread but non-fatal brain damage. Brain cells might get damaged or destroyed. Destroyed cells release chemicals that the body eliminates as waste.

Small blood vessels might burst. Bleeding in the brain can increase the pressure on the brain and squeeze other blood vessels.

In response to the brain damage, the body sends immune cells and other cells to protect the brain and begin repairing it. The brain swells and becomes inflamed as the body prepares to fight infections.

The combined effects of the damaged brain cells, burst blood vessels, and inflammation can lead to the symptoms commonly associated with concussions.

Symptoms of Concussions

Concussions produce a range of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Seeing stars or blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating

These symptoms usually clear up six to eight weeks after the inciting event.

Delayed Concussion Symptoms

Concussion symptoms sometimes take hours or days to appear. Concussion symptoms might appear delayed for a variety of reasons. 

After a concussion, doctors will usually prescribe rest. During this time, you might not experience symptoms because of your reduced activity level.

When you resume your normal daily life, you may have difficulty concentrating or experience emotional outbursts. In some cases, while these symptoms were always there, they may not have manifested because of your environment.

Concussion symptoms might also appear delayed because the brain changes for many days after a concussion. Your brain will continue to inflame and swell after the concussion, producing new symptoms.

Concussion symptoms can also get aggravated by other conditions. Some research suggests that accident victims with post-traumatic stress disorder experience more severe post-concussion symptoms. These conditions can take time to develop and manifest.

Treatment Is Key

If you think you have a concussion, you should seek medical treatment. This helps in a few respects.

First, a doctor can diagnose your concussion and prescribe a course of treatment so it does not worsen. You can discuss your symptoms with your doctor. If you develop delayed concussion symptoms, you can check with your doctor to make sure the symptoms are normal.

Second, a doctor will record your symptoms. If you seek injury compensation for your accident, these medical records will help prove the extent of your injuries.

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