Symptoms of neuroendocrine dysfunction after a traumatic brain injury may blend in with post-concussion syndrome. Patients should learn to recognize the warning signs of NED and seek help from a specialized physician during the crucial period of up to 36 months post-injury. Neuroendocrine problems after a mild traumatic brain injury can be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, NED can occur even in mild head injuries, and a “delay in diagnosis and treatment of NED may impair overall recovery and rehabilitation.”
Overlapping conditions of post-concussion syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder can make it difficult for patients to express to doctors the overwhelming symptoms they are experiencing.
In some situations, what appears as a mild blow to the head can cause an invisible cascade of slow-moving damage within the brain. A mild head injury may seem like something one can shake off initially, take a few days of rest and keep moving. However, a silent ripple effect of neuronal damage may be forming, and patients won’t know until symptoms worsen in the coming weeks, months, or even years.
The first three months of symptoms a patient can experience from their injury may be a warning sign of significant problems to come. According to statistics, neuroendocrine dysfunction after a traumatic brain injury affects 15-30% of patients. Symptoms of NED include low blood pressure, reduced heart rate, anemia, depression, emotional lability, anxiety, fatigue, lack of concentration, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, weight loss, and more. Damage to the hypothalamus is a contributing factor. Once the brain’s neuroendocrine system becomes imbalanced, it can affect the body’s entire organ system.
There is currently no routine protocol to follow up with concussion patients during the documented period of the first 36 months post-injury for the onset of neuroendocrine dysfunction after mild traumatic brain injury.
Many patients released from emergency rooms receive minimal guidance other than to contact their doctor for further care, or if symptoms worsen in the next 72 hours to return to the emergency room. Post-concussion syndrome, neuroendocrine dysfunction, and post-traumatic stress disorder all share similar traits. With the possibility of several major mental and physical ailments from a traumatic brain injury, it is critical for patients who have suffered a concussion to seek more than one opinion from physicians if their symptoms persist. Considering preventable monitoring for neuroendocrine dysfunction takes a specialized approach from a doctor who understands everything that can go wrong several months or years after a concussion.