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Brain Injuries | 1 minute read

Why new symptoms can show up much later after sustaining a brain injury

Written by Michelle Munt, 18 March 2021

Why new symptoms can show up much later after sustaining a brain injury

Any type of injury can have a complicated recovery process. Most people have heard of reflected pain, where we might be overcompensating for an injury and causing pain somewhere else. In this scenario, reflected pain turns up later and can take you off guard, extending your recovery time. This is just one of many reasons why “new symptoms” of a brain injury can show up much later after sustaining a head injury.

My double vision, which I don’t know when it started

My brain injury, thankfully, allowed me to keep all my senses. Alright, they weren’t totally intact, with increased Tinnitus affecting my hearing and altered sensation on my left side dulling my sense of touch, but they were still there. I’d never worn glasses and found I could still see. Ok, initially, I couldn’t read, but that was because of problems with my language function and concentration, rather than sight problems making it difficult to decipher the letters. But many months after my accident, I realised that I was suffering from double vision. I literally could see two of everything one day, and it was really confusing. I assumed stress and fatigue made it bad in the way alcohol can have a similar temporary effect on you, and rested, waiting for it to go away. And it did, sort off…

After that incident, I noticed that my vision is actually overlapped. The two images from my eyes don’t line up properly. I refer to this as “one and a bit”. It’s not terrible, and I can see and read ok most of the time, but it is there. But what I’m not sure of is, was it like this before that day that the double vision got really bad or not. It doesn’t feel particularly abnormal for me, so maybe I was walking around like this is ages before I spotted it.

It can take time for brain injury survivors to recognise some of the changes they are experiencing.

It sounds crazy, but it’s not always easy for survivors to identify changes, especially if they are more subtle, like my vision. We can be trying to struggle on with something until a particular event highlights the problem. This can then make it appear that we are suffering from a “new” symptom of our brain injury when, in fact, it could have been hiding in plain sight for a long time.

Sometimes I hear from other survivors how this can cause issues within their families. People struggle to understand how yet another symptom can crop up long after the injury. That can leave them questioning if the survivor is using it as an excuse by exaggerating it or even making it up all together. Clearly, this can damage relationships by creating mistrust and bad feelings.

Therefore, I think it’s really important that we get this message out there that “new symptoms” can present themselves when you least expect them. Whether they really are new in the way reflected pain can start much later, or that they have been there all along, but we didn’t identify them, know we’re not milking this! They are real, and we can’t help it. Believe me, we absolutely want to get better, but the recovery journey isn’t a straight line.

By Michelle Munt
Guest blogger

In December 2014 Michelle Munt sustained a serious brain injury in a car accident. Since the injury, Michelle has set up her own business as a coach, supporting others.

Read other articles by Michelle Munt

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