Over 1.5 million Canadians suffer from an acquired brain injury (ABI). There are more people with ABI in Canada than the number of people with spinal cord injury, MD, breast cancer, and HIV/AIDs combined according to the Brain Injury Canada. This makes it a major public health concern which is not getting the attention that it requires.
Brain Injury Canada is an advocacy agency created in 2002 to act as a national voice and national facilitator. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life of Canadians with ABI and their families, allowing them to feel supported and valued and engaged in their communities.
ABI is a term that refers to any brain damage that occurs after birth. This injury is often caused by traumatic brain injury also known as concussion (car accidents, slip and fall, violence, sports, military service, shaken baby syndrome, domestic abuse, gunshot wounds). Other causes of ABI include seizures, brain tumors, lack of oxygen to the brain, drug / alcohol abuse, and exposure to toxic chemicals. Brain Injury Canada reports that about 160.000 new people experience and ABI each year and the rates are increasing steadily.
Two types of ABI exist. One is traumatic, the other non-traumatic. Adults and children often have different responses than adults which makes it vital to seek medical attention for any child that suffers a head or serious body trauma you are concerned about. You should watch children for changes in behavior, habits and responses after any such injury. Seek care immediately if you see changes.
General Impacts of ABI:
· Fatigue, sleeplessness, insomnia
· Challenged by physical activity like walking, moving, bathing, household tasks
· Slurred speech
· Chronic pain
· Seizures, vertigo
· Ringing in the ears, lack of hand/eye coordination
· Change in taste and smell
· Sensations in skin (pain or itching)
· Taking longer to process information
· Difficulty planning
· Vision problems
· Not understanding people
· Difficulty writing
· Difficulty remembering things
· Difficulty making decisions
· Getting ‘stuck’
· Difficulty with time
· Emotional issues including irritability
· Depression, anxiety and anger
· Sudden unexplained emotional changes
· Risk taking
· Lacking a verbal filter
· Difficulty with social interactions
ABI prevention must be the focus in our population. At this point we do not have a complete understanding of the brain. Treatment of ABI depends heavily on early recognition and diagnosis. If you suspect that you or a loved one have a concussion or minor TBI seek medical care immediately.
Treatments are evolving, and not every treatment is successful. Patients and their caregivers must take an active role in their rehabilitation to determine what strategies work.
If you would like more information on Brain injury Canada, their website is a good reference and contains valuable information.