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Post-Concussion Syndrome

What is post-concussion syndrome?

Post-concussion syndrome refers to the lingering symptoms following a concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It’s also known as post-concussive syndrome. This condition is typically diagnosed when a person who has recently suffered a head injury continues to feel certain symptoms following a concussion. These include dizziness, fatigue, and headaches.

Post-concussion syndrome can begin to occur within days of the head injury. It can sometimes take weeks for the symptoms to appear.

Read more: Head injuries »

What are the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome?

Symptoms

A doctor may diagnose post-concussion syndrome after a TBI by the presence of at least three of the following symptoms:

  • a headache
  • dizziness
  • vertigo
  • fatigue
  • memory problems
  • trouble concentrating
  • sleeping problems
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • apathy
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • personality changes
  • sensitivity to noise and light

There is no single way to diagnose PCS. The symptoms vary depending on the person. A doctor may request an MRI or CT scan to make sure there are no significant brain abnormalities.

Rest is often recommended after a concussion. However, it can perpetuate the psychological symptoms of PCS.

What causes post-concussion syndrome?

Causes

Concussions can occur in a variety of scenarios, including:

  • after a fall
  • getting into a car accident
  • being violent assaulted
  • experiencing a blow to the head during impact sports, particularly boxing and football

It isn’t known why certain people develop PCS and others don’t.

The severity of the concussion or TBI plays no role in the likelihood of developing PCS.

Who is at risk for post-concussion syndrome?

Risk Factors

Anyone who has recently suffered a concussion is at risk for post-concussion syndrome. You’re more likely to develop PCS if you’re over the age of 40.

Women are also more likely to have PCS. This might be because women are more likely to seek medical care.

Several of the symptoms mirror those associated with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some experts believe that people with pre-existing psychiatric conditions are more likely to develop PCS after a concussion.

How is post-concussion syndrome treated?

Treatment

No single treatment exists for post-concussion syndrome. Instead, your doctor will treat the symptoms specific to you. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist for treatment if you experience anxiety and depression. They might suggest cognitive therapy if you have memory issues.

Medications and Therapy

Doctors may prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to treat depression and anxiety. A combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy counseling may also be helpful in treating depression.

What is the outlook after post-concussion syndrome?

Outlook

Most patients with post-concussion syndrome fully recover. However, it’s difficult to predict when this might occur. PCS usually goes away within three months, but there have been cases that have lasted a year or longer.

How can I prevent post-concussion syndrome?

Prevention

The causes of post-concussion syndrome following a concussion are still unclear. The only way to prevent PCS is by preventing the head injury itself.

Here are some ways to help prevent head injuries:

  • Wear your seatbelt while in a car.
  • Ensure that children in your care are in the proper car seats.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bike, playing impact sports, or riding a horse.

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