Postconcussion syndrome (PCS) refers to continued symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury. Most often it resolves within a month but sometimes the symptoms persist for much longer.
Getting treated early for PCS may help you get better faster. If you think you have PCS, contact your doctor right away.
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The exact cause of PCS is unknown. Several factors contribute to PCS, including:
Microscopic brain damage from a mild brain injuryPsychological or emotional stress that results from a mild brain injury
These factors increase your chance of developing PCS. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
or brain injury caused by a car accident or assault
Feeling depressed or being diagnosed with
after a mild brain injury
, including not having a lot of close friends or people to confide in after a mild brain injury
PCS symptoms vary from person-to-person. If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to PCS. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor. Symptoms include:
HeadacheDizzinessBalance problemsNauseaVision problemsBeing very sensitive to noise and/or lightDepressionMood swings—a quick change in mood (eg, being happy to becoming very sad)AnxietyBecoming easily irritated or annoyed for little or no reasonTrouble remembering thingsTrouble concentrating or paying attentionTrouble sleepingFeeling tired all the time
PCS is hard to diagnose. The brain damage caused by a mild brain injury is so slight that many tests cannot detect it. It is important to see a doctor with special training in brain injury. These doctors are called neurologists, neuropsychologists, and neurosurgeons. To find one of these doctors, call a local head injury foundation for a referral.
Your doctor will ask questions about:
Your personal and family medical historyYour head injurySleep habitsRecent missed work or schoolRecent memory or relationship problems
Recent emotional problems, such as irritability,
, and depression
Tests may include:
Memory and attention tests—to assess your memory and attention abilitiesCT scan
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head; to look for signs of persistent injury and/or to see if surgery may improve the symptoms
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the head; to look for signs of persistent injury and/or to see if surgery may improve the symptoms
(EEG)—A test which evaluates the electrical activity of the brain.
PCS treatment depends on your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Over-the-counter medications to reduce the severity of headaches
Antidepressants to help reduce depression and
anxietyNerve blocks to relieve severe, nerve-injury induced pain/headaches
Talking with a mental health professional about the problems you are having related to PCSLearning how to cope with those problems in your life
Learning skills and training to start or resume a career
Neurotherapy (also called
) is a painless treatment using computers to help you learn how to modify your brainwaves to improve attention and memory.
In some cases, a collection of blood in an area of bruising on the brain may require surgery, which may help resolve or improve symptoms.
There are no guidelines for preventing PCS because the cause is not known. To help reduce your chances of getting PCS, take the following steps:
Prevent brain injury by following the recommendations of the
Centers for Disease Control
Brain Injury Association of America
See a doctor who specializes in brain injury as soon as you think you may have PCS.
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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