Head injury causes damage to the scalp, skull or brain. It can be a minor condition or severe and even life-threatening.
Minor head injuries may cause headache, bruising, swelling and cuts, which may bleed profusely, even if small.
The following symptoms may occur soon after the head injury, or hours or days later if the injury is more severe:
- headache with nausea and vomiting
- blurred or double vision
- slurred speech
- confusion or drowsiness
- loss of consciousness
- blood or clear fluid from the ears or nose
Head injuries can cause skull fractures and damage to the brain that may be permanent.
Road traffic accidents are the single largest cause of head injuries. Other common causes include falls, assaults and sports injuries.
Being aware of potential dangers and wearing protective headgear when on bicycles or motorbikes and when playing contact sports can reduce the risk of head injury.
Although most head injuries are minor, around 1 million people each year in the UK need emergency medical care as a result of head injury. Around one in four of these needs to be admitted to hospital.
Treatment of a head injury depends on its type and severity. It may involve:
- observation at home or in hospital
- first aid treatment, for example stitching of wounds
- medication such as painkillers, corticosteroids and antibiotics
If brain damage has occurred, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and emotional support may be needed.