The brain is a complex and intricate organ that controls our every thought and movement. Through the connections our brains makes, we learn skills and information throughout our lives. Our brain allows us to learn information, move through space and stay alive and even while you are sleeping your brain is extremely active. As people age, their brains slow down a bit in order to encompass the large amounts of information they have amassed throughout their lives. Many elderly people have trouble recalling certain memories and information from their early lives. This is completely normal, and should not be a cause of worry. As people age, they are at risk for many different diseases and maladies. Plus, they are also at higher risk for falling due to loss of balance and coordination. These factors combined can cause traumatic brain injury, or acquired brain injury in the elderly. This article will discuss the two main types of acquired brain injury: non-traumatic acquired brain injury and traumatic acquired brain injury. Seniors are at risk for developing both types of brain injury; however they have an increased risk of non-traumatic acquired brain injuries as they age.
Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries
Non-traumatic acquired brain injuries are injuries that occur as a result of a disease, not as a result of trauma. These injuries will occur in many people throughout their lifetime, but elderly people especially are at a higher risk for developing a non-traumatic brain injury. This is because they are at a heightened risk of developing many of the diseases that can cause these types of injuries. Here is a list of diseases and health issues that can cause non-traumatic acquired brain injuries.
A stroke is defined as an obstruction of the blood flow in one area of the brain. The area of the brain that is affected will be unique in each person who suffers from a stroke. The blood supply can be cut off in the brain due to a blood clot occluding the blood vessels in the brain, an aneurysm, or a brain hemorrhage. Any of these brain issues can cause an occlusion of the blood vessels in the brain and thus cause a stroke. When a stroke occurs, it is essential to get to the hospital immediately. The sooner the patient can receive treatment, the less brain damage there will be. Strokes that go untreated can be fatal. Since strokes cause blood flow to lessen and even stop completely in a part of your brain, the part of your brain that is affected will be without oxygen and nutrients. If the patient does not receive prompt care, then that part of the brain can slowly lose its function and cause loss of function and memory in the patient. Strokes will cause different symptoms in accordance with the part of the brain that they affect. For example, strokes in the left hemisphere can cause right side paralysis, loss of speech and loss of comprehension. A stroke in the right hemisphere can cause left side paralysis, a short attention span, and impulsive behavior.
Encephalitis is a viral disease that causes brain inflammation. While this disease is very rare, it does occur and the elderly are susceptible due to having weakened immune systems. If the brain is inflamed for a prolonged period of time, it can lose parts of its functions and cause widespread functional impairment. Severe encephalitis can even cause the patient to slip into a coma and have respiratory distress.
Other types of non-traumatic acquired brain injuries can occur from meningitis, toxicity, anoxic injuries and hypoxic injuries. These types of diseases and injuries can all be found in the elderly population due to their weakened immune systems.
Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries
Traumatic acquired brain injuries are brain injuries that occur as a result of a trauma. Any trauma to the head is serious because it could affect your brain, and thus affect your entire body. There are two types of traumatic acquired brain injuries: open and closed. Open injuries refer to injuries that have open wounds. They often occur when a blunt object hits the skull, causing it to fracture and the brain to be exposed. An example of an open injury is a bullet wound to the head. Open injuries typically cause a great amount of damage to the portion of the brain that was hit. Closed injuries occur when the brain is jumbled in the skull. These injuries result when a person hits their head very hard or when they are hit in the head. The brain is surrounded by cerebral spinal fluid to protect it from the skull. However, if hit hard enough, then the brain can overcome the cerebral spinal fluid and hit the side of the skull. When this happens, damage will occur in the area of the brain that hit the skull. When open or closed brain injuries occur, they can be further classified into two categories: contusions and diffuse axonal injuries.
Brain contusions are bruises on your brain. They occur whenever your skull is fractured and your brain hits the side of your skull. The area that is bruised will be the brain tissue that is directly underneath the skull fracture. Contusions occur when a person receives a severe blow to their head. This can happen during car crashes, playing sports, or during a fall. For seniors, brain contusions most often occur during bad falls.
Diffuse Axonal Injury
A diffuse axonal injury refers to an injury that shears the axons in your brain. This can occur if your head rotates quickly during a car accident or during a fall. If your head rotates too quickly, then a sheering force will be applied on your brain, and the axons in your brain can be stripped or twisted. Diffuse axonal injuries can cause a loss of efficiency in the area of your brain that is affected, which can have widespread effects on your body. These types of injuries also often cause patients to have slower brain processes at first. However, over time, their brains will create new connections, and will regain some of its efficiency.
Acquired brain injuries are a medical emergency. Your brain is the central control of your entire body. If you have a brain injury, then your life could be affected greatly. For the elderly, brain injuries are far more common, but they can be prevented. This article speaks about the different categories and types of acquired brain injuries. To read more about the subject and learn about symptoms and treatments for acquired brain injuries, keep reading our next article.