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When a headache is more than a headache

After a car accident, drivers and passengers often feel immediate points of pain, which are easy to diagnose and treat. However, not every accident injury is so uncomplicated.

When it comes to whiplash or a traumatic brain injury (TBI), symptoms often do not prevent themselves right away, and they aren't always obvious. What may start as a headache a few days after the accident could turn into something more serious.

Traumatic brain injury symptoms

TBIs come with a wide range of physical and psychological effects, based on the severity of the injury. Mild TBIs can start with the aforementioned headache, as well as other mild symptoms like nausea or vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, difficulty sleeping or sleeping more often than usual, and dizziness or loss of balance.

More serious symptoms can include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • A state of being dazed, disoriented or confused
  • Problems with speech
  • Sensory problems like blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth, changes in the ability to smell or sensitivity to light and sound
  • Cognitive or mental symptoms such as memory or concentration problems, mood changes or mood swings, and feelings of depression or anxiety.

Physical symptoms of a moderate to severe injury include longer periods of unconsciousness, convulsions or seizures, dilation of one or both pupils, clear fluids draining from the nose or ears, the inability to awaken from sleep, numb fingers and toes and loss of coordination. Cognitive or mental symptoms include agitation or combativeness, slurred speech, profound confusion or disorders of consciousness such as a coma.

Whiplash symptoms

A whiplash headache will most often develop within 24 hours and start at the base of the skull. Neck pain or stiffness will also likely accompany the headache, as well as a worsening of pain with movement.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Loss of motion in the neck
  • Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Seek treatment

If you notice these symptoms after a car accident, be sure to seek immediate treatment to determine if you have a TBI or whiplash. Once you can diagnose the problem, connect it to the accident and receive the necessary medical treatment, you can receive compensation for those injuries.

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