If you’re lucky, the side effects associated with mild traumatic brain injuries like a concussion subside within a matter of weeks. However, for many people, the effects of a concussion can continue to manifest themselves for months, years or even a lifetime. Read on to learn more about post concussion syndrome long term effects.
What is Post Concussion Syndrome
Post concussion syndrome is also sometimes referred to as post concussive syndrome or PCS. PCS occurs after a person experiences a mild traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion. While symptoms from a concussion subside within a matter of weeks for many people, symptoms of PCS can linger for much longer.
There are several different side effects associated with post concussion syndrome. Unfortunately, there is no cure-all treatment for this ailment. However, you can treat the individual symptoms of post concussion syndrome.
Symptoms of PCS
When it comes to post concussion syndrome long term effects, there are several different symptoms to watch out for. This ailment affects the brain in several different ways. Individuals suffering from PCS may experience physical symptoms as well as psychological symptoms. Higher brain function may also be affected by PCS.
Keep in mind that the symptoms below do not manifest for everyone. In fact, some of these symptoms are quite rare. But, all of the symptoms below have been reported by at least a small percentage of the population that experiences post concussion syndrome.
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The most common symptoms associated with PCS are physical symptoms such as headaches and dizziness. As much as 90% of people diagnosed with PCS will experience physical symptoms. Fortunately, many of the symptoms below, such as sensitivity to light, noise or blurred vision are much less likely to occur.
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Fatigue, insomnia or other sleep related problems
- Decreased sensitivity to taste and smell
There are also serious psychological side effects associated with post concussion syndrome. When it comes to these kinds of symptoms, roughly one in two people suffering from PCS experience symptoms like these.
- Mood Swings
- Changes in Personality
- Lack of enthusiasm
Higher Brain Function Symptoms
Fortunately, symptoms associated with higher brain function subside in the vast majority of individuals after six months to a year. However, roughly one in four people who are diagnosed with PCS experience some or all of the symptoms below.
- Memory loss
- Loss of cognitive ability
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of attention span
The Role of PCS in Other Diseases
While many of the side effects associated with traumatic brain injuries and PCS subside over a matter of time, especially when treated by a medical professional, there appears to be evidence that suggests that post concussion syndrome long term effects can include an increased risk for developing certain severe diseases that affect the brain.
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There’s a great deal of research that suggests that those suffering from post concussive syndrome are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. However, many scientists believe that a portion of these Alzheimer’s cases is misdiagnosed. Some believe that the Alzheimer’s like symptoms that were documented are symptoms of another disease that we’ll cover shortly, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
ALS (Motor Neuron Disease)
Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a fatal degenerative condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spine. In ALS, nerve cells associated with muscle control and movement degenerate to a point where the brain is no longer able to control individual muscles. This loss of communication and control causes the muscle to atrophy and die.
Several risk factors have been identified as potential triggers for ALS, including head injury and brain trauma. The risk of a head injury leading to an ALS diagnose seems to increase with age, as well.
While PCS has been implicated as a possible cause of Parkinson’s Disease, the evidence that points to a connection has only been documented in studies on animals. So, the link between the two conditions is dubious at best, and there is no concrete evidence to suggest the two are truly related.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Also known as CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive neurological disease that’s caused by repeated concussions. There is a strong scientific connection between CTE and traumatic brain injury.
Usually, symptoms associated with CTE manifest much later in life and decades after the injury was experienced. Thankfully, most people will never have to grapple with CTE as it is believed to be caused by repeated traumatic brain injury that’s outside the scope of what a normal person can expect. Athletes such as football players or boxers and military service personnel seem to be at the highest risk of developing the disease.
As for the disease itself, it’s a terrible, degenerative disease that can often result in rapid physical and mental decline leading to death. Symptoms are predominantly mental and include depression, anxiety, rapid changes in mood, memory problems, suicidal thoughts or actions and cognitive decline. They can also include physical symptoms similar to those associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Post Concussion Syndrome in Children
Originally, the science surrounding PCS and children has shown that children suffering from PCS are less likely to experience long term symptoms, especially symptoms affecting higher brain function than adults are. However, current findings suggest that children are actually at a higher risk for long term side effects after experiencing a traumatic brain injury.
Consult With Your Physician
Fortunately, many individuals suffering from post concussion syndrome are unlikely to experience symptoms associated with their brain injury. However, for others, these symptoms can last for a much longer period.
More evidence is necessary to substantiate the scientific connection between PCS and other brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s ALS and CTE.
Regardless of the cause or severity of post concussion syndrome, consulting with a trusted physician or neurologist is of paramount importance. If you believe you’re experiencing side effects of PCS, or that your PCS is manifesting itself in other ways contact your physician immediately.