When an infant suffers from brain damage, it can have devastating and long-lasting effects on his or her life. While there are several potential causes of the damage, such as oxygen deprivation, physical trauma, and a long labor period, being able to recognize the signs of a problem will ensure that your baby receives care and treatment as quickly as possible to help minimize the potential for permanent disability or death.
Many symptoms of infant brain damage may be apparent within a few minutes or hours of birth. However, there are also others that can take years to become obvious. The most common symptoms or signs that brain damage may have occurred that are visible soon after birth are:
- A forehead that appears abnormally large
- A head that appears much smaller than other infants
- A spine that is shaped abnormally
- Stiffness in the neck
- Feeding difficulties
- Incessant crying
- Difficulty sleeping when lying flat
- Extreme fussiness with no apparent cause
While these are the most common signs of brain damage that can be noticed soon after birth, they are not all present in every case.
Other Symptoms of Infant Brain Damage
Other symptoms that show a potential for infant brain damage may not become apparent until your child begins missing developmental milestones. In these cases, the brain damage symptoms can affect physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive or perceptual abilities.
Physical symptoms of infant brain damage can include a variety of issues and developmental delays. The most common issues include:
- Severe sleeping problems
- Excessive tiredness or lethargy
- Sensitivity to light
Some of the most common developmental milestones that may be missed include:
- Crawling age
- Pulling up
- Sitting up
- The ability to grasp objects
- Walking age
- Running, hopping and skipping
- The ability to navigate stairs without help
- Being able to feed him- or herself
- Being able to get dressed alone
There may be other signs or symptoms related to abnormal development as well. If you notice any of these in your infant or child, you will need to seek assistance from a medical professional as soon as possible.
Testing for Infant Brain Damage
When the symptoms are present in children under the age of two, a neurological scale known as the Glasgow Coma Scale will be used to determine the child’s conscious state. This scale, which ranges from 3 to 15 for infants and children under 2, records the responses to stimuli, including opening of the eyes and verbal and motor responses.
If there are symptoms of brain damage in your older child, the next step will generally be imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs. Both of these tests will allow the doctor to see if there are obvious signs of damage, which can include a fracture in the skull or a hemorrhage. An EEG test will also be used to determine whether the electrical pathways in the brain are communicating normally.
CT scans are typically not recommended for children under the age of two. However, if they have a Glasgow Coma Scale of 15, and parents and the physician consent, it may be carried out. In most cases, young children who have a score of 15 and are still given a CT scan are under three months old.
It is very important that you take your child to see a doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms of infant brain damage. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner your child can begin receiving proper care and treatment that could have a major impact on his or her quality of life in the future.