Experts and physicians say there really is no such thing as a "mild" concussion. Every concussion should be taken seriously, particularly since another concussion is more likely after you've had one the first time and since getting another concussion closely on the heels of the first can be even more serious or potentially fatal.
While not visible to the human eye without the aid of a magnetic resonance image (MRI) or computerised tomography (CT) scan, a concussion involves swelling of the brain tissue within the skull. The concussion itself is the result of a blow to the head, causing the traumatic impact of the brain with the inside of the skull. The brain is cushioned inside the skull by cerebrospinal fluid, but when the head is subjected to trauma, the speed at which the impact occurs results in the brain violently colliding with the interior of the skull. This results in swelling.
Another symptom of a concussion is often internal bleeding in the brain or of the brain, inside the skull. While there may be bleeding on the exterior of the skull from an impact or cut or other bleeding due to a fall or impact on other areas of the body, the bleeding related to the concussion itself is not visible because it is inside the head. This results when the traumatic impact of the brain with the interior of the skull causes tears in nerve fibres, bleeding or other traumatic injury to the brain.
Immediately following a head injury, the human body goes into shock. This may be from internal or external bleeding or just the body's natural reaction to the trauma. This can result in dizziness and disorientation, chills, nausea, vomiting, confusion, dilated pupils, difficulty speaking and becoming listless or fatigued. However, these symptoms may not be immediately evident if the concussion is extremely mild.
When the brain is injured, and depending on what part of the brain is injured or bleeding, the brain is unable to function normally. Swelling and bleeding can both impact the brain's function, causing slurred speech, difficulty speaking or understanding, amnesia, loss of taste or smell or even loss of sensation in parts of the body. Since the brain controls all of your body's activities---from motor function to speech and memory--any of these functions can be impaired as a result of such an injury. In the case of a mild concussion, these problems usually subside as the brain begins to heal following the injury Rest is the primary treatment to give the brain the time it needs to heal.
The same dangers exist with a mild or slight concussion as with a more serious one. While the symptoms may seem mild initially, there can be lasting damage from a brain injury that is not immediately evident. In addition, anyone who has a concussion once is at a higher risk for getting another concussion in the future. People who have multiple concussions have a higher risk of getting epilepsy and other neurological damage, disorders and diseases in the future.
With a brief visit to the doctor or the emergency room, a physician can diagnose a mild concussion rather quickly based on a description of the incident leading to the injury, an examination of the eyes and some brief neurological checks to test memory, concentration, judgment, reflexes, coordination and balance. If in doubt, the physician may order a CAT scan of the head.
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