A concussion is a very brief and temporary loss of consciousness after a head injury. It usually doesn’t cause any problems that might be found during a physical examination or tests such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Post-concussion syndrome is a complicated disorder that may follow a concussion. It’s a collection of different specific symptoms. Up to 80% of people who have a concussion will have post-concussion syndrome, usually more women than men.
The cause is a jarring injury to the brain. The syndrome may also be related to psychological factors.
Symptoms include a headache, poor concentration, mild memory loss, irritability, trouble sleeping, bad dreams, dizziness, tiredness, and sensitivity to noise and light. Sometimes mild personality changes occur. These symptoms go away during weeks to months, but they may last for a year or more. People usually improve slowly during this period.
The health care provider makes a diagnosis by noting the presence of symptoms in someone who has had a concussion.
Treatment consists of watchful waiting until the symptoms go away. Most people recover to their normal pre-injury state, usually without permanent effects.
No medicines will shorten the recovery time. Mild analgesics such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen usually help the headache. Medicines may also be needed for depression or anxiety.
Strenuous exercise may make the headache worse. Moderate exercise, however, may make relaxation easier. Exercise may also help with sleep problems by causing just enough fatigue. Some people find biofeedback and relaxation techniques helpful.
Changing work or school areas to minimize the effects of memory loss or trouble concentrating may also be useful.
Support from friends and family to remind people that the condition is temporary may help in dealing with the symptoms.
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