Understanding (Edema) Brain Swelling

Understanding (Edema) Brain SwellingIf you bump your elbow, it is likely to swell. However, what if you hit your head and it impacted your brain?

Brain Swelling — also described as a brain edema — is the body’s reaction to many kinds of injury or trauma. Swelling can be a result of oversight infection. Normally, swelling occurs fast and is manageable with some mixture of rest, ice, medication, elevation, or removal of excess fluid.

The size of your brain can also enlarge as a result of damage, ailment, or other cause. Brain swelling, though, can immediately cause serious problems — including death. It is also usually more difficult to treat. As your body’s central control system, the brain is significant to overall function. The thick, bony skull that snugly guards this vital organ affords little room for the brain to swell.

What Happens When the Brain Swells

Several condition names include brain swelling:

Elevated intracranial pressure
Brain edema
Cerebral edema

Swelling can transpire in particular locations or throughout the brain -depending on the cause. Wherever it occurs, brain swelling increases the pressure inside the skull. That is recognized as intracranial pressure or ICP. This pressure can inhibit blood from moving to your brain, which deprives it of the oxygen it needs to function. Swelling can also block other fluids from transmitting your brain, making the swelling even graver. Destruction of a brain cell would cause the death of these cells.

Anatomy of the Brain

What Causes Brain Swelling?

Injury, other health problems, such as, tumors, infections, and even being at too high altitudes — any one of these problems can produce brain swelling,
The list below explains different ways the brain start swelling.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI): A TBI has also described a brain injury, head injury, or acquired brain injury. In TBI, an unexpected event damages the brain. Both the physical touch itself and the swift acceleration and deceleration of the head can develop the injury. The most prevalent causes of TBI include vehicle crashes, falls, assaults, being hit with or crashing into an object. The initial injury can make brain tissue to bulge. Additionally, broken parts of bone can break blood vessels in any portion of the head. The body’s reaction to the injury may also further swelling. Too much inflammation may prevent fluids from flowing from the brain.
Ischemic strokes: Ischemic stroke is the principle the most common stroke and is created by a blood clot or obstructing in or close to the brain. During a stroke brain is incapable of accepting blood — and oxygen — it requires to perform its function. As a consequence, brain cells start to suffocate. As the brain reacts, inflammation can occur.

Brain (intracerebral) strokes and hemorrhages: Hemorrhage indicates blood is leaking from a blood vessel. Hemorrhagic strokes are the most prevalent type of brain hemorrhage. These happen when blood vessels in the brain rupture. As blood excretes and the body responds, pressure develops inside the brain. High blood pressure caused by stress is thought to be the most prevalent cause of this kind of stroke. Hemorrhages in the brain can also be caused to head injury, certain medications, and unknown malformations present from birth.
Infections: Illness triggered by an infectious organism such as a bacterium or virus can lead to brain swelling.

Instances of these conditions include:

  • Meningitis: This is an infection in which the encompass portions of the brain becomes inflamed. It can be affected by bacteria, viruses, other organisms, and even some medications.
    Encephalitis: This is an infection in which the brain itself becomes swollen. It is most often caused by a group of viruses and is usually spread by insect bites. A similar condition is named encephalopathy, which is due to Reye’s syndrome.
  • Toxoplasmosis: This virus is produced by a parasite. Toxoplasmosis frequently harms fetuses, young infants, and people with damaged immune systems.
  • Subdural empyema: Subdural empyema relates to a region of the brain growing abscessed or congested with pus, usually after another illness such as sinus infection or meningitis. The infection can spread swiftly, causing inflammation and blocking other fluid from leaving the brain.
  • Tumors: Growths in the brain can make swelling in several ways. As a tumor develops, it can compress against other areas of the brain. Tumors in some sections of the brain may hinder cerebrospinal fluid from leaking out of the brain. New blood vessels developing in and near the tumor can also lead to inflammation.
  • High altitudes: Even though researchers do not know the specific circumstances, brain swelling is more likely to occur at elevations above 4,900 feet. This type of brain edema is regularly linked with serious acute mountain sickness (AMS) or high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE).
    What Are the Symptoms of Brain Swelling?

Symptoms of brain swelling range from mild to serious, depending on the severity and the cause. Usually, they begin suddenly. You may notice any of these symptoms:

  • Inability to walk
  • Headache
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Vision loss or changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Seizures
  • Stupor
  • Loss of consciousness


How Is Brain Swelling Detected?

The steps employed by your physician to diagnose brain swelling are based on symptoms and the suspected cause. Routine exams and tests used in the diagnosis include:

  • CT scan of the head to identify the extent and location of the swelling
  • Head and neck exam
  • Blood tests to monitor for causes of the swelling
  • Neurologic exam
  • MRI of the head to identify the extent and location of the swelling

What Is the Treatment for Brain Swelling?

Lesser cases of brain swelling due to reasons such as a slight concussion or mild altitude sickness often improve within a few days. In most cases, however, more surgery is needed promptly.

The purpose is to ensure that the brain gets sufficient blood and oxygen to remain well while the swelling is reduced and any underlying conditions are treated. This may entail a combination of therapeutic and surgical treatments. Prompt treatment usually results in quicker and more complete recovery. Without it, some damage may persist.

Treatment for brain edema can incorporate any combination of the following:

  • Oxygen therapy: Administering oxygen through a respirator or other ways helps ensure that the blood has enough oxygen in it. The surgeon can adjust the respirator to help decrease the amount of swelling.
  • IV fluids: Providing fluids and medicine within an IV can prevent blood pressure from dropping too low. This serves to ensure that the body — including the brain — is getting enough blood. However, some fluids can make swelling worse. Physicians attempt to use the right amounts of the right fluids in someone with brain swelling.
  • Lowering body temperature (hypothermia): Dropping the temperature of the body and brain helps reduce swelling and allows the brain to heal. Hypothermia as a therapy for brain swelling is not widely used because of the complexity of managing the different variables; it is difficult to perform correctly.
  • Medication: In some instances of brain edema, your surgeon may begin a medication to help relieve the swelling. Medication can also be developed for other reasons, such as to slow your body’s reaction to the swelling or to diffuse any clots. The medications your physician gives you depend on the cause and symptoms of brain swelling.
  • Ventriculostomy: In this procedure, a surgeon makes an incision in a small hole in the skull and inserts a small synthetic drain tube. Cerebrospinal fluid is removed from inside the brain, helping to relieve the pressure.
  • Surgery: Surgery may have one or more of these objectives :
    Removing section of the skull to alleviate intracranial pressure is an operation, described as a decompressive craniectomy.
    Removing or repairing the cause of the swelling, such as restoring a damaged artery or vein or removing a growth
This stock medical exhibit compares three axial views of the head and brain to describe the Progression of Brain Swelling. The following views are illustrated:
1- Normal brain anatomy with fluid filled space surrounding the brain.
2- Mild cerebral edema with brain tissue pressing outward against the skull walls.
3- Moderate cerebral edema with further brain tissue swelling and inflammation, compressing the ventricles within the brain.

Are There long term effects of Swelling?

It natural to have lingering effects from brain swelling as it can be traumatic. The issues you notice depend on the gravity as well as the position of the injury.
Symptoms can be any one of the following:

  • Depression
  • Thinking and attention skills
  • Headaches
  • Movement
  • Communication skills
    Your health care provider is available to help you overcome any these potential complication while some problems may extend to diminish over time, others may require ongoing treatment.

How Can I Protect my Head?

To guard the brain, keep these tips in mind as you go about your daily activities:

  • Use a headgear when biking, skating, playing contact sports, or performing other activities in which you might fall and hit your head.
  • Always wear seat belts properly when driving or riding in vehicles.
  • Make sure you are doing all you can to control high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • When moving about in high altitudes, take your time — allow your body to adjust to the elevation.