Head injuries (mild, moderate and severe) are common in Lesotho especially at the end of each month.
The causes due to trauma range from accidental falls during sports, assaults, road traffic accidents to occupational hazards such as heavy objects falling on the head at work especially in the factories.
We all know the typical story of someone who gets concussed — they are knocked out for example, while playing football, and wake up at the side of the field dazed and confused. They are taken to the casualty at the local hospital and after an hour or two they are well enough to go home. They feel bad for 24 hours, go back to work a couple of days later, and in a month have almost forgotten the whole incident.
Unfortunately this isn’t the complete picture — many people have unpleasant symptoms for several weeks after being concussed, and in a few of them the problems may last much longer. Most people are unaware that this can happen and they may become very concerned, anxious and sometimes depressed. They may be afraid that they have “brain damage” or that they will never get back to being normal. The good news is that these unpleasant symptoms don’t last forever, and that if you manage them properly there should be no long-term ill effects.
Symptoms that most people have two weeks after
Headache: Headaches can be expected in the early stages because of the bruising from the injury. This sort of headache can usually be relieved by resting, but it is best to prevent it by working within the limits of your fatigue. Headache pills often don’t make much difference to this sort of pain. If the headache is severe and will not go away, you should see your doctor.
Poor concentration: These people usually have difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness is associated with this feature because concussion puts the memory system out of order for a while.
Eye problems: After concussion people often find that bright light worries them, and they feel better if they wear sunglasses, even indoors.
Sight is sometimes a little blurred, either because the eyes are not focusing well, or because they are not lining up correctly. This almost always comes right on its own, but you should get expert advice if it doesn’t get better.
Dizziness: Concussion sometimes upsets the balance organs in the ears, and for a short while after the injury a sudden movement of your head can give you vertigo (dizziness), so that the world seems to spin round you. More often people have a feeling of unreality or floating, which they describe as dizziness. Both these settle down in time, but they can be disturbing if you are not prepared for them.
Clumsiness: When you are recovering from concussion you may find that you may become clumsy such as bumping and dropping things and this should be taken as a warning that you should take special care when there could be danger, like crossing the street, and of course you shouldn’t be driving your car if you are reacting slowly.
Irritability: Often people who have been concussed find that they are easily annoyed by things that normally wouldn’t worry them. They easily lose their temper and self control.
Tiredness: After concussion your brain seems to have less energy. Even after a little effort you are likely to feel worn out and be unable to go on. You will want to go to bed early and sleep longer.
Noise: These people have difficulty putting up with noise. Children playing, a loud radio or machinery at work may be unbearable.
What to do if the symptoms don’t go away
Most people will have at least some of these symptoms after they have been concussed, but they should be almost free of them by a fortnight.
However, about one person in 10 will take longer to recover. If your symptoms have lasted for more than two or three weeks, or are particularly severe, you should ask for professional help.
The first thing that’s done is to make sure that there are no complications of the injury. Then there will be tests of concentration and memory, to serve as a guide to treatment and a baseline to measure your progress.
Depending on the gravity of the problem, investigations such as skull X-rays, CT scans etc may be done to rule out skull fractures and bleeding in the head and other possible complications.
Once there’s no doubt about the cause, you can be reassured that the symptoms will clear on their own. Unless the symptoms are only mild, it’s best to be off work to begin with. Although you are not at work you should have a regular programme of things to do, both brain work and physical.
What you should remember after having a mild head injury:
• Do not drive your car or motorbike until you have made sure that your concentration is good and your reactions are quick enough.
• Do not expect to deal with alcohol in the usual way until you have fully recovered. One small drink may lay you flat.
• Do not expose yourself to the risk of another injury. Until you have recovered completely your reactions will be slow and you may be clumsy, just inviting a second accident. — Own Correspondent.
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