Today’s Tip of the Day talks about brain injury in infants.
Infant brain damage symptoms range from mild to severe and can include signs of cerebral palsy, seizures, or cognitive impairments and developmental delays. Sometimes, brain damage is mild and goes unnoticed, but in other cases, it’s more serious and obvious as soon as the infant is born.
How Does Infant Brain Damage Happen?
Infant brain damage could be the result of an acquired or a traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury occurs when some physical force from the outside strikes or puts pressure on the head. This may occur in an infant during childbirth because of birth injuries.
The head may get stuck in the birth canal, for instance, or the doctor may use an instrument like forceps with too much force on the baby’s head.
An acquired brain injury occurs when something happens internally, inside the skull or brain.
During childbirth, nearly half of all brain damage is caused by asphyxiation, when the brain is deprived of oxygen. This can occur because of an illness in the mother, when there are complications with the umbilical cord or placenta, or when the baby’s head becomes stuck in the birth canal.
In some cases, the causes of brain damage are unforeseen. They may be accidents that could not be prevented.
Immediate Infant Brain Damage Symptoms
Infant brain damage caused by complications of childbirth is not always immediately or easily recognized. The symptoms could be mild or delayed.
In cases of severe brain damage, symptoms are more likely to be recognized right after birth. Physical symptoms can include a small head or skull, a large forehead, a malformed spine, stiffness in the neck, unusual or distorted facial features, and abnormal eye movement.
Other early symptoms of brain damage can include seizures. An infant may also display certain behavioral symptoms of brain damage like excessive crying, unusual irritability or fussiness, difficulty sleeping or eating, and other signs of general discomfort that have no other explanation.
Later Physical Symptoms of Brain Damage
When brain damage is less severe or does not cause immediate physical and behavioral symptoms, parents may start to notice later signs that a child has suffered brain damage. As an infant with brain damage gets older, they may develop sleeping disorders or sensitivity to light.
The baby may exhibit tremors or muscle spasms, or even develop paralysis in certain parts of the body. Extreme fatigue can also be a sign of brain damage.
As a baby grows, brain damage may cause difficulty with physical development. A baby may be slow to crawl, sit up, stand up, and walk.
Feeding may be difficult for a child to do alone.
As a child grows older they may struggle to learn and perform physical tasks like getting dressed, tying shoes, using writing instruments, and may have trouble reaching other physical and motor milestones.
Developmental and Cognitive Symptoms
Brain damage in an infant may also manifest as mental, behavioral, and emotional developmental issues or delays.
A child may be spatially disoriented or have a higher sensitivity to pain. The child may have difficulties with concentration and focusing, remembering things, or developing language and vocabulary.
Behavioral challenges may include impulse control or acting out. These can become more pronounced as a child goes to school and begins to interact with other children.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
A common condition that results from brain damage during childbirth is cerebral palsy, which causes certain characteristic symptoms. Symptoms of cerebral palsy may indicate that a child has suffered brain damage during childbirth.
Other symptoms of cerebral palsy include:
- Delays in reaching motor milestones
- Difficulty with fine motor skills
- Poor coordination,
- Scissoring legs
- Abnormal limb movements
- Floppy muscles and joints
- Learning disabilities
- Trouble speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Slow and writhing movements
- Vision and hearing loss
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
- Growth delays
Infant brain damage symptoms are varied and diverse. For some children, the signs may not even show up for months or years, or if they do may not be obvious enough to lead to a diagnosis.
If there are symptoms that develop soon after birth, a doctor can diagnose brain damage by using imaging scans like CT scans or MRIs. These can show if there is traumatic damage.
If the damage is not clear, diagnosis is trickier. Monitoring for symptoms may be the only way to detect and diagnose brain damage.
Check out our learning library at www.alaskabraininjury.net for online pamphlets with more tips on this and other issues that affect those with brain injury.
*the Tips of the Day are for informational purposes only and are not to replace the advice of a health care provider. See your doctor if you have any concerns both medical and emotional.