Symptoms and Signs of Dementia in Head Injury

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 11/15/2021

Doctor's Notes on Dementia in Head Injury

A head injury occurs when an outside force hits the head hard enough to cause the brain to move violently within the skull. This force can cause shaking, twisting, bruising (contusion), or sudden change in the movement of the brain (concussion). The violent jarring of the brain can damage brain tissue and tear nerves, blood vessels, and membranes. Even a mild head injury can cause prolonged or permanent declines in cognition called dementia, which describes problems that affect thinking and concentration, memory, communication, personality, interactions with others, mood, and behavior. A type of dementia resulting from multiple head injuries is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Symptoms of dementia resulting from head injuries may include

  • problems thinking clearly,
  • memory loss,
  • difficulty concentrating,
  • slowed thought processes,
  • irritability,
  • easy frustration,
  • impulsiveness,
  • mood swings,
  • inappropriate behavior in social situations,
  • grooming and dressing become eccentric or neglected,
  • restlessness,
  • agitation,
  • insomnia,
  • aggression,
  • combativeness,
  • hostility,
  • headache,
  • fatigue,
  • apathy, and
  • other vague, nonspecific physical symptoms. 

What Is the Treatment for Dementia in Head Injury?

Treatment of dementia in a person with a history of traumatic brain injuries varies depending on the type of dementia diagnosed, the type and severity of the head trauma, and how recently the injury occurred. Debility from head injury can vary from very severe to mild. Patients with severe debility from a major head injury may require long-term inpatient medical care or rehab. Patients with mild debility from head injuries may only require simple supportive care from family or loved ones.

Patients with dementia from head injuries commonly require supportive care for activities of daily living (ADLs). Medical providers often prescribe physical and occupational therapy and home health services to assist in the care of demented head injury patients. It is important for families of patients with dementia from head injuries to work with their care providers and their social service workers to get the support they need.

The treatment of dementia from head injury is still in its infancy. Many clinical trials and studies related to the care of dementia and CTE are currently ongoing.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.