I’ve said it before, but I believe it needs to be addressed further. Doctors do not know that much about CPM/EPM. Because there are only 2,000 to 2500 cases that are definitively diagnosed as CPM/EPM each year, there aren’t any “experts” that we can turn to. Because of this, it is necessary to draw understanding from what we know about brain injuries in general.
The brain is the most complex part of a human body, and the most interesting thing to remember is that we do not know that much about it.
Previously, it was believed that if you did not pass out from an injury (hit, fall, car accident) then a brain injury did not occur. Now, we know that is not always the case.
You can have short term to long term cognitive, physical or emotional issues from a simple bump on the head or even from whiplash.
So, let’s investigate brain injuries further:
The first type of more common and less recognized form of brain injury is a concussion. Concussion occurs when your brain is jostled, which results in impaired functioning. It can occur from a fall, a hit, a car accident, even from shaking (shaken baby syndrome). Generally, a concussion is determined from the symptoms that a person experiences. In other words, you may or may not have any outward physical signs of trauma, like bumps, bruising or bleeding. You may not even have a direct hit to the head. You may experience an impact to the body that leads to a jolt to the head that causes injury to the brain.
Concussions cause microscopic injuries that are generally not detectable by CT scans and do not cause pronounced bleeding of the brain. It is believed that the damage in the brain is from cellular damage. It is also believed that the damage to the brain is widespread. This is why if there is bleeding, it will not typically show on a CT scan because it is not significant enough to pool in one area to be detectable.
So, concussions result from injuries to the way the brain cell (neuron) functions vs having damage to the blood vessels in the brain that causes more significant bleeding. This type of injury is similar to the cellular type of injury that those with central pontine myelinolysis or EPM. You will also find this type of physiological type of injury with MS too.
The brain cells (neurons) may be severed completely in concussions or there may be physiological damage that is done that impacts the way the cell functions. So, the brain cell itself may be damaged or the way it works may be damaged.
What do I mean by that? I would compare it to when you have a neck injury that causes paralysis or a neck injury that just causes numbness and tingling to an extremity. If you have paralysis, the damage is complete and there’s little or no function to the impacted sites, and it can not be repaired. The wiring is cut and the signals can’t get through. If you have an injury that causes numbness and tingling, there is some information being processed, but it is not being processed correctly. This would be comparable to having a short circuit in an electrical wire. Sometimes, the information will get from point A to point B, sometimes it won’t. In these instances, sometimes your body can repair the damage.
(The following is a picture of a neuron…the cells that compose your brain tissue. )
I would recommend checking out the following link for a little more information regarding the physiology of concussions (http://www.cordingleyneurology.com/contuseconcuss.html)
Based on what type of injury occurs, concussions can be mild (a person does not lose consciousness) or severe (a person can lose consciousness or even slip into a coma).
So how do you know if a concussion is mild or severe?
Generally, hospitals will look at the person’s symptoms to determine how severe a concussion is and also on if the person lost consciousness and for how long. That said, symptoms may or may not develop right when the injury takes place, and because of typical limitations on insurance plans, hospital staffing, and resources, most emergency rooms will dismiss the person to the care of family or friends within a few hours if the did not lose consciousness from the injury.
It is suspected that there are 1.6 to 3.8 million sports related concussions each year. Each year approximately 1.4 million people seek care for brain injuries. It’s obvious from the numbers I just mentioned that a significant number of people, especially those who participate in sports, do not seek medical treatment for the injuries that they have.
It can mean that a person does not suspect that their injury is significant enough to require treatment, or it might be that people do not realize a connection between their symptoms to the injury that they experience. I believe it is the latter.
This means it is important to recognize the symptoms of a concussion. Typical indicators of a concussion:
Physical Issues: Cognitive Issues:
• Headache • Feeling mentally
• Nausea “foggy”
• Vomiting • Feeling slowed down
• Balance problems • Difficulty Concentrating
• Dizziness • Difficulty Remembering
• Visual problems • Forgetful of recent information or conversations
• Fatigue • Confused about recent events
• Sensitivity to light • Answers questions slowly
• Sensitivity to noise • Repeats questions
• Numbness/ Tingling
• Dazed or stunned
•Seizures may also occur immediately or even up to a year or more later.
Emotional Issues: Sleep Issues:
• Irritability • Drowsiness
• Sadness • Sleeping less
• More emotional than usual • Sleeping more
• Nervousness • Trouble falling asleep
I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend checking out the following link to learn more about the effects of concussion and other brain injuries (this is a great tool for those who have a brain injury as well as those who live with them)— http://www.brainline.org/landing_pages/TBI.html
Check out the following on how scientists are determining the function of how the brain works : http://connectedsocialmedia.com/5697/future-lab-mapping-the-network-in-the-brain/
It is also important to understand that you may not develop all of these symptoms, and the symptoms may not appear immediately after the injury. It may take days or weeks before the symptoms appear. It may happen a few hours after the injury. And unlike other brain injuries, these injuries do not typically appear on CT scans or MRI scans.
You may experience the following longer lasting issues in your daily life:
• Increased problems paying attention/concentrating
• Increased problems remembering/learning new information
• Longer time required to complete tasks
• Increased symptoms (e.g., headache, fatigue) during school/work
• Greater irritability, less tolerance for stressors
Until a full recovery is achieved, you may need the following supports:
• Time off from school/ work
• Shortened day
• Shortened classes (i.e., more frequent breaks)
• Rest breaks during the day
• Allowances for extended time to complete work/assignments/tests
• Reduced homework/work load
• No signiicant classroom or standardized testing at this time
Physicians and school personnel should monitor the student’s symptoms
with cognitive exertion (mental effort such as concentration, studying) to
evaluate the need and length of time supports should be provided.
The information above is from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/physicians_tool_kit.html
Generally, a person will recover from mild concussions in a few weeks, but it is also important to remember that concussions can “build”. If a person, experiences a concussion and it is mild, and then experiences an additional injury, days,weeks or even months later, the injury can be catastrophic. It can actually lead to death. For this reason, there are new policies being implemented in schools and college athletic programs throughout the country that bench players for weeks or months following minor concussions.
Until concussions are understood more fully, I believe this should be a mandatory step for the protection of the individual.
Ok, so how does this relate to CPM/EPM? Concussions can impact any area of the brain, but as mentioned above the type of injury found in a concussion is believed to impact the physiology of the brain cells. It impacts how brain cells relay chemical signals, and this is true for CPM/EPM too. This is why there are similarities in the emotional, behavioral, cognitive and sleep symptoms of CPM/EPM and concussions.
I plan to research brain injuries further to hopefully discover answers as to why our experiences are so vast and different, and hopefully to determine what we can anticipate in how the injury responds to treatments.
Have a great night!
- Brain injury timeout (utsandiego.com)
- Concussions: Don’t Ignore the Symptoms (chkdsportsmed.com)
- Youth concussions serious business (azdailysun.com)
- Drug blocks damage that follows brain injury (futurity.org)
- Resources for those with traumatic brain injuries (dvidshub.net)