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How Long after a Brain Injury can Symptoms Occur?

By Matt Lalande in Brain Injuries on February 25, 2024

How Long after a Brain Injury can Symptoms Occur?

How Long after a Brain Injury can Symptoms Occur?

Head injuries are among the most devastating and debilitating injuries one can sustain, yet their symptoms often don’t manifest immediately – instead, they typically show up several days, weeks, or even months post-injury.

This article will give an overview of the frequently delayed symptoms of brain injuries and discuss their implications, as well as any consequences of delaying treatment, for instance, on your capacity to pursue compensation if the accident was due to someone else’s negligence.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a form of acquired brain injury that occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. This trauma can result from a direct blow to the head, a penetrating head injury, or a forceful movement of the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

TBIs can range from mild, commonly known as concussions, to severe, which can result in prolonged periods of unconsciousness, amnesia, or even death. The severity and outcome of a TBI depend on the extent of the damage and the area of the brain affected.

Common causes of TBIs include fallscar accidentstrucking accidentsmotorcycle accidentsbicycle accidentspedestrian accidents, sports injuries, and violent assaults. The impact of a TBI can be temporary, affecting brain cells for a short duration, or permanent, resulting in long-term complications or death.

In terms of risk factors, the Mayo Clinic reports that the people most at risk of traumatic brain injury include children (especially newborns to 4-year-olds), young adults, especially those between ages 15 and 24, adults aged 60 and older, and males in any age group.

A Traumatic Brain Injury Can be Costly

A severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Canada can lead to substantial financial strain for the affected individual and their family due to the comprehensive and prolonged nature of the required care. Initially, the costs begin with emergency treatment, which may include surgery and intensive care unit (ICU) stays, quickly escalating into tens of thousands of dollars. Following the acute phase, in-patient rehabilitation costs come into play, where the individual may need several weeks to months of specialized care to regain basic functional abilities, further adding to the financial burden.

Moreover, the need for 24-hour care post-discharge for those severely affected introduces ongoing expenses that can deplete savings and strain family resources. This care might include professional nursing care, specialized medical equipment, and modifications to the home to accommodate mobility limitations, all of which are costly. Medication and outpatient rehabilitation costs, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, are recurrent expenses that can continue for years, aiming to maximize recovery and independence.

Additionally, the indirect costs, such as job loss, can significantly impact the family’s financial stability. The individual with a TBI may be unable to return to work, resulting in lost wages and, potentially, the loss of employer-provided health benefits. This situation can force families to rely on a single income or government assistance programs, which may not fully cover the extensive costs associated with ongoing care and rehabilitation. The cumulative effect of these expenses represents a significant financial challenge, highlighting the need for comprehensive insurance coverage and support systems to mitigate the economic impact of severe TBIs in Canada.

When and How do Brain Injury Symptoms Typically Present?

In the complex landscape of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the presentation of symptoms can vary significantly across different age groups, namely children, adults, and seniors. This variability underscores the importance of age-specific considerations in the diagnosis and management of TBI.

Children: In children, the symptoms of a TBI can be particularly challenging to identify due to their developing brains and, in very young children, the inability to articulate feelings or symptoms. Initial symptoms may include changes in eating or nursing habits, persistent crying and an inability to be consoled, unusual or prolonged irritability, a change in the ability to pay attention, a disruption in sleep patterns, and a loss of interest in favorite toys or activities. As children are less likely to report symptoms such as headache, dizziness, confusion, or feeling disoriented, caregivers and medical professionals must be vigilant for subtle changes in behavior, physical coordination, and cognitive abilities. Symptoms in children may also evolve or become more apparent as the child grows and faces increased cognitive demands.

Adults: Adults with a TBI typically present with more recognizable symptoms that can be broadly categorized into physical, cognitive, and emotional changes. Physical symptoms often include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and problems with speech. Mental symptoms may manifest as confusion, disorientation, concentration difficulties, and memory loss. Emotional and behavioral changes can include mood swings, depression, anxiety, and aggression. These symptoms can appear immediately following the injury or may be delayed, emerging days or weeks after the incident. Adults are more capable of expressing their symptoms, which aids in the diagnosis and treatment process.

Seniors: Seniors present a unique challenge in the diagnosis and management of TBI. They are more likely to experience delayed onset of symptoms and may have a slower recovery process. In addition to the typical symptoms seen in adults, seniors may experience exacerbation of pre-existing conditions, such as cognitive decline or movement disorders, making it difficult to distinguish between symptoms of TBI and underlying health issues. Seniors are also at a higher risk for complications, such as bleeding in the brain, and may have a higher mortality rate from TBIs. Symptoms in seniors may be mistakenly attributed to normal aging or pre-existing conditions, delaying diagnosis and treatment.

Across all age groups, the severity of the TBI plays a crucial role in the type, intensity, and duration of symptoms experienced. Mild TBIs, often referred to as concussions, typically result in symptoms that are less severe and of shorter duration than those associated with moderate or severe TBIs. However, even mild TBIs can lead to significant long-term issues, particularly if an individual suffers from repeated injuries.

Can Brain Injury Symptoms be Delayed?

Traumatic Brain Injuries may result in headaches as well as changes to mood or behavior, confusion or memory problems and seizures, blurred or distorted vision, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, agitation, restlessness, sensitization to smell, or light sleepiness. Too little or too much sleepiness and slurred speech, among other symptoms; however, in certain patients, their inability to recognize these signs leads them to believe they’re safe even while they could be.

John Hopkins reports that symptoms of a head injury may occur right away – but some may not start for weeks or even months after the injury – meaning quite a delay. The reasons are multifaceted and relate to the complex nature of brain injuries and your body’s response to trauma. Initially, your brain may react to injury with swelling or bleeding, processes that can develop over hours to days after the initial trauma.

This delayed response can lead to an increase in intracranial pressure or the gradual disruption of neural pathways, which may not manifest immediately in observable symptoms.

Furthermore, your brain’s ability to compensate for injury can mask symptoms temporarily. The body’s initial shock and the release of adrenaline in response to injury can also obscure the severity of a TBI. As the body recovers from the immediate effects of trauma and adrenaline levels normalize, symptoms can become more apparent.

Symptoms such as cognitive difficulties, memory problems, changes in personality, sleep disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound may emerge or worsen days or even weeks after the injury. This delayed onset underscores the importance of monitoring individuals who have experienced significant head trauma closely over time, even if they initially appear to be unharmed.

It’s crucial for anyone who has sustained a head injury to seek medical attention immediately, even if they feel fine initially. A thorough medical evaluation can help identify potential TBIs early, and ongoing monitoring can ensure that any delayed symptoms are addressed promptly and appropriately.

Degenerative Brain Disorders Can Develop Years Later.

Studies have demonstrated that injuries to the head may increase the chances of developing brain disorders years or decades after an injury has taken place, such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and various forms of dementia. Researchers don’t fully understand what causes neurodegeneration due to trauma; damage in certain parts of the brain could disrupt microtubule function and eventually result in progressive illness.

In terms of Alzheimer’s, for example – (which is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaques and tau tangles in the brain, leading to cognitive decline and memory loss) there has been a potential link between severe brain injury and the risk of developing AD which has been explored in numerous studies over the past several with a focus on understanding both epidemiological evidence and underlying biological mechanisms.

Epidemiological studies suggest that individuals who have experienced severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The Journal of Alzheimer’s, for example, in a 2022 study, examined the relationship between the presence and severity of TBI and the risk of ADRD and concluded that TBI does, in fact, post a potential risk factor for developing ADRD.

Another 2022 study in the Journal of Epidemiology found an increased risk of dementia among individuals with TBI, highlighting the need for more intensive medical monitoring and health education in individuals with TBI.

Despite these associations, the exact nature of the relationship remains complex. Genetic predisposition plays a crucial role in Alzheimer’s disease, and not all individuals with a history of severe brain injury will develop AD. Research continues to explore the interplay between genetic factors, the severity and type of brain injury, and lifestyle factors that might influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease post-injury.

Delayed Symptoms Can Impact Personal Injury Compensation

Those injured as the result of someone else’s negligence – such as in a car crash caused by an inattentive driver or through falling on property that wasn’t safe from potential hazards that might cause injury – may be eligible to file personal injury claims and claim compensation through this personal injury claim procedure, and apply for no-fault accident benefits. But what happens if there’s a delayed onset of symptoms for months or years? Can this impact a person’s entitlement to rightful compensation?

The answer is, perhaps. The delayed onset of symptoms can prolong a case filing – or, in the worst-case scenario – delay your case past the limitation date, which would result in the inability to file for compensation. Remember, the limitation in Ontario to file your personal injury claims is two years from which the date the cause of action arose. Similarly, you must file a claim for accident benefits within 30 days after you’ve notified your insurer of your accident.

Furthermore, delayed treatments or symptoms may lead the insurer not to believe that your injuries were a result of the accident – or, in other words, caused or contributed to by the accident. Remember, In Canadian law, negligence is established when a party’s failure to act with reasonable care directly results in injury or harm to another, necessitating a causal link between the negligent act and the injury sustained. If the onset of your symptoms is seriously delayed, the insurer may use this to their advantage in trying to show that there is no causal link between the accident and your injuries.

What can be done to Monitor Traumatic Head Injury Symptoms?

It’s essential for anyone who has suffered a traumatic head injury to seek medical advice before starting any form of self-monitoring. A healthcare professional can provide personalized advice based on the individual’s specific condition and needs.

However, for someone who has suffered a traumatic head injury, monitoring symptoms is crucial for managing their condition and seeking timely medical intervention. Here are some practical ways to monitor symptoms (but again, speak to your doctor first):

  1. Keep a Daily Journal: An effective way for many people to keep track of the impact of a head injury is keeping a journal and writing down every day the symptoms they are experiencing and any significant changes they notice in terms of health, as well as noting any new symptoms that appear. Document any physical symptoms (headaches, dizziness, nausea), cognitive changes (memory issues, difficulty concentrating), emotional responses (irritability, sadness), and sleep patterns. Note the time of day symptoms occur and their severity.
  2.  Use Symptom Tracking Apps: There are various health apps designed to track symptoms of head injuries and other medical conditions. These apps can help record symptoms, set reminders for medication, and share information with healthcare providers.
  3.  Regular Check-ins with a Healthcare Professional: Regular appointments with a healthcare provider, such as a neurologist or a rehabilitation specialist, can help in monitoring the progression or improvement of symptoms. They can adjust treatment plans as needed based on the symptoms reported.
  4.  Cognitive Tests: Engaging in regular cognitive tests under the guidance of a healthcare professional can help monitor changes in cognitive functions over time.
  5.  Stay Informed: Educating oneself about the symptoms and long-term effects of traumatic head injuries can aid in recognizing changes in one’s condition and when to seek further medical advice.
  6.  Support System: Sharing experiences and symptoms with friends, family, or support groups can provide additional observations and insights into changes in behavior or health that might not be self-evident.
  7.  Physical Activity Monitoring: With professional guidance, gradually reintroducing physical activity and monitoring the body’s response can help in understanding the limits and progress in recovery.

Talk to a Hamilton Brain Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one were involved in an accident and suffered injuries – talk to a Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyer today. Remember – even if you think you have suffered a mild concussion you may have in fact suffered a live changing traumatic head injury with symptoms. Always protect your rights early – rather than rush into them late.

Have you or a Loved One Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Navigating the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury can be an overwhelming journey, not just for the injured victim but for their entire support system. Understanding the complexities of recovery and seeking the right legal advice are crucial steps toward healing and compensation. If you or a loved one are facing the challenges brought on by a traumatic brain injury, remember you’re not alone. Since 2003, our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers have recovered millions for brain-injured victims all across Ontario – and we are here to help guide you through this difficult time.

Please feel free to email us confidentially through our website or give us a call from anywhere in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton area at 905-333-8888 today. Your path to recovery and justice deserves dedicated support, and it begins with a conversation.

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