Post-Concussion Syndrome

What is Post-Concussion Syndrome?

Lingering headaches, dizziness, and related symptoms experienced after the initial injury that caused a concussion is termed Post-Concussion Syndrome. Initially resulting from some type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), PCS is often caused by temporary or permanent damage within the brain itself. Related symptoms of a concussion may last for several days or weeks afterwards.

What are the Symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome?

Signs of Post-Concussion Syndrome

PCS isn’t predictable in terms of when symptoms appear or how long presented symptoms will continue to appear. PCS symptoms may be more pronounced if the initial concussion included immediate amnesia or haziness or if the affected person has a history of headaches. In some cases, symptoms related to a concussion can appear off and on for months or years after the initial head injury.

Common symptoms of PCS include:

  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Chronic headaches
  • Increased anxiety
  • Memory lapses or forgetfulness
  • Changes in usual mood
    • Heightened sensitivity to sound or light

Post-Concussion Syndrome Causes

As the name suggests, post-concussion syndrome results from a head injury which was severe enough to cause the individual to suffer a concussion. This isn’t something that every head trauma patient experiences, however. Research has shown that persons who have suffered previous head injuries are more susceptible to experiencing post-concussion syndrome. The condition is generally more severe in people who experience a headache immediately following a head injury. Other symptoms that suggest the onset of post-concussion syndrome are amnesia, fogginess, or feelings of fatigue.

Younger head injury patients and women tend to experience post-concussion syndrome more often than men. Anyone with a history of frequent headaches may also be more susceptible to developing the syndrome in the event of a head injury. Otherwise, it has been difficult to identify specific causes and risk factors, because just diagnosing post-concussion syndrome is problematic. As further studies are conducted, researchers hope to identify more direct causes of the syndrome and better diagnostic tools.

How is Post-Concussion Syndrome Treated?

Due to the vague nature of PCS symptoms, there is no definitive test to diagnose it. If post-concussion effects are suspected, a physical exam may be followed by image tests to identify possible brain issues such as swelling or the accumulation of blood. Treatment is based on the determined cause of PCS symptoms. Medications may help manage or reduce persistent headaches or anxiety. Patients may be referred to a neurologist or psychiatrist for further evaluation.

PCS isn’t always linked to the severity of the initial head injury. It does explain why some people may have no immediate symptoms following a concussion and others will develop symptoms hours or days later. Any unusual symptoms following a concussion should be evaluated by a doctor. Not always involving loss of consciousnesses, PCS can occur with both mild and severe concussions.

Post-Concussion Syndrome Prevention

Aside from preventing head injuries, there’s no known way to prevent post-concussion syndrome from developing. While a head injury may occur at any time, employing proper safety procedures is key to reducing the risk of serious injury. This includes proper safety belt use, whenever traveling in a car for oneself, as well as for any children. Ensuring that children are using the proper seat restraints and those under the age of 13 are seated in the backseat is especially important.

Helmets should be worn whenever involved in physical activity and this goes for adults as well as for children. Such activities in which helmets are recommended are bicycling, ice skating, snowboarding, and in team sports, such as football, hockey, and in softball or baseball. Additionally, horseback riders and motorcyclists should always wear a helmet.

At home, the installation of additional lighting and handrails can reduce the risk of a dangerous fall.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
January 09, 2018