Traumatic Brain Injury A to Z - Dizziness

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Dizziness

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It’s not unusual for patients to feel dizzy during TBI recovery. Watch as Tracy and the group explore strategies for managing dizziness.
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Dizziness

Julie
You know Michelle, now that Tom’s awake he’ll probably be moving around more. You may find that he complains about dizziness.

Tracy
That’s right, Julie. Dizziness is a very common effect of TBI. Tom may complain that the room is spinning, moving, you know causing that sense of vertigo. So if that happens, he could lose his balance, he could fall. You just want to “fall-proof” the house.

Carl
Julie had me get rid of all her area rugs and electrical cords, things that Sam could slip or trip on. We also put on non-slip mats on the shower and bath floors.

Tracy
Good idea, Carl. Good idea. Also, you want to make sure that the room is well lit. That Tom is encouraged to use any of the assistive devices that his team might’ve provided for him.

Travis
What’s an assistive device?

Tracy
Oh things like canes, walkers…equipment that may help your Dad get around when he comes home.

Okay, just a few more things… You’ll want to remind your Dad to avoid sudden movements. It can also help to sit for a few minutes before walking. You know it just gives the brain time to adjust. So encourage him to sit or to lie down as soon as he feels dizzy.

Julie
Sam didn’t seem to get dizzy very often at first, but once he started walking again, he couldn’t seem to keep his balance. They had this kind of belt like contraption that Carl would hold onto while Sam walked up and down the halls in the hospital. It was a good part of Sam’s therapy.

Carl
Heck, it was good therapy for me, too. At least I felt like I was doing something.

Tracy
Something very helpful, Carl. Sam’s lack of balance is pretty common. Our brains control our physical movement, our balance, so obviously a TBI can cause problems with that. Now fortunately, those problems usually go away over time and with physical therapy.

In fact, many of the effects that you see may improve over time. Some of the others might be sensory changes, spasticity, vision problems, seizures, a variety of cognitive effects are some of the possibilities. So you’ll find a description of what to expect, along with those tips on how to manage those conditions, in the Managing Less Common Effects of TBI in your Guide for Caregivers.

Okay, I think this is a good point to take a break.

This week please take some time to write in your journal. It’s important. If you haven’t started one yet, you’ll find a template in your Guide for Caregivers. Keep track of the progress that your family member is making - - even those… those small steps. And write down your experiences, your feelings. But do take time for yourself.

Julie
Along that line, Tracy, we use a website called caringbridge.org. When Sam first got hurt, everyone in our family was calling every day, trying to get information. And it was just too much; it was overwhelming. Carl and I couldn’t keep up, and stay with Sam at the same time. Then the people at the Fisher House in Landstuhl, told us about caringbridge. It’s great. You can download pictures, and create a website for your injured soldier, and keep everyone posted. Every day I go on there and write in my journal. It’s good therapy for me, and our entire family can check up on Sam’s progress.

Tracy
That’s terrific, Julie. Yeah, I’ve met many people who’ve used both caringbridge and another website, called caringpages.com. It’s really helped in a couple of ways - - keeping family and friends updated, serves as a journal for the caregiver. You know if you have a chance, check the sites out. I think they’ll help.

So next week lets talk about taking care of yourself, which is key to being an effective caregiver. Okay. Thanks everybody for coming. And remember, I’m here for you if you need anything, you know where to find me. Okay.
 

Dizziness

Dizziness is a term used to describe everything from feeling faint or lightheaded to feeling weak or unsteady.

Under normal circumstances, your sense of balance is controlled by a number of signals that your brain receives from several locations. A TBI can disrupt this.

The greatest concern about dizziness is the increased tendency to fall when dizzy or lightheaded.

Dizziness is often an early effect. It frequently goes away during the first weeks following injury.

If dizziness does not go away on its own, there are therapies and medications that may help. These must be used under the supervision of the health care team.

What you might see:

  • Complaints that the surroundings are spinning or moving (vertigo) 
  • Loss of balance, unsteadiness 
  • Nausea 
  • Wooziness, lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision during quick or sudden head movements

How you can help:

  • Be aware of the possible loss of balance. This can lead to falling and serious injury.
  • Fall-proof your home: Remove area rugs and electrical cords that someone could slip on. Use non-slip mats on your bath and shower floors.
  • Have your service member/veteran: 
    • Sit for a few minutes before walking. This gives the brain time to adjust.
    • Sit or lie down as soon as he or she feels dizzy. 
    • Avoid driving a car if frequent dizziness or lightheadedness is present. 
    • Use good lighting when getting out of bed at night. 
    • Walk with a cane, walker, or other assistive device for stability. 
    • Avoid sudden movements or bending over.
       
  • Work closely with the health care team to manage symptoms effectively. 
  • Talk with the doctor about therapies or medications that improve symptoms.
Related Information:
Dizziness
Other Physical Effects
Glossary
Frequently Asked Questions
"I so wish that at the beginning I had had someone like the people I’ve met here at Fisher House, who are already two years post-injury. I wish I would have had some- body like that come up to me and just put their arms around me and say, You know what? Any question you need to ask, just ask it." -  Meredith H.

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