If you were involved in a car accident, a good rule of thumb is to seek an assessment from a qualified car accident doctor right away. You should follow this rule even if you do not sustain any visible injuries in the incident, as car accidents can cause your body a great deal of stress. That stress can manifest in several unforeseeable ways, and ways that have the potential to greatly impact your future health and well-being.
In addition to immediate injuries like broken bones and certain soft tissue injuries, car crashes can and often do trigger neural disorders. If your crash results in a neurologic injury, it is crucial that you seek an evaluation and treatment from the best neurologists near you to reduce your chances of experiencing severe and lifelong impairment.
What Is a Neurological Injury?
A neurological injury is an injury that occurs to the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. In essence, a neurologic disorder is any disorder that affects the way the nervous system functions. A neurological disorder can be hereditary; congenital, meaning it developed before or during birth; or sudden, meaning it develops because of trauma or illness.
Neurological disorders can affect just about any part of the body. In fact, there are over 470 known neurological conditions. Those range from migraines to head injuries, and from cerebral palsy to stroke. However, each of the disorders fall into one of two categories.
Disorders of the Peripheral Nervous System
The peripheral nervous system refers to one half of the body’s nervous system. It is the part of the nervous system that connects the rest of the body to the brain and spinal cord and consists of the body’s nerves.
Neurologists generally categorize disorders of the peripheral nervous system as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy typically develops as the result of trauma from physical injuries, such as those sustained in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident. It entails damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord and causes numbness, weakness, and pain to areas closest to the damaged nerves. In some cases, neuropathy can affect bodily functions, such as urination, digestion, and circulation. A car accident doctor can assess for and diagnose peripheral neuropathy even if you show little signs of the disorder following your crash.
Disorders of the Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is the control center of the body and consists of the brain and spinal cord. Most neurologic disorders from car accident injuries affect the central nervous system, as they involve blows to the head or spinal injuries. The best neurologists generally categorize disorders of the central nervous system in one of two ways: either radiculopathy or cranial neuropathy.
Radiculopathy refers to a range of symptoms that develop as the result of the compression or inflammation of the nerves within or at the base of the spinal cord. Radiculopathy can occur at the lower, middle, or upper sections of the spinal cord. Symptoms of the disorder will vary greatly depending on where along the spinal cord the injury exists.
Cranial neuropathy occurs when trauma affects the nerves within the brain or brainstem. Neuropathies that fall within this category typically affect the face and eyes, though they can impair hearing and speech as well.
How Car Accidents Can Impair Neurologic Function
Car accidents are one of the leading causes of non-hereditary, non-congenital neurological disorders. Neurologic injuries can occur as the result of intense pressure on the nerve or when the nerves become stretched, severed, or burned. Pressure, stretching, severance and burning of the nerves typically occur during traumatic events that involve violent blows to the body or head, such as a car collision. In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries — a common and severe neurological injury — among individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 years old.
Though there are hundreds of ways in which a car accident injury can cause or trigger a neurological disorder, a few examples of how a neurological injury may occur are as follows:
- The force of a high-speed collision causes neck injuries like whiplash, which shakes the brain around in the skull.
- An airbag’s deployment is too forceful given the size of the passenger, and it causes damage to the spinal cord.
- Upon impact, a seatbelt restrains a passenger and transmits the energy throughout his or her midsection, including to more vulnerable neck and abdominal regions. The passenger, as a result, sustains a cervical fracture and spinal fracture.
Even the most minor of car crashes can cause neurological disorders, which is why you should seek an evaluation from a skilled car accident doctor immediately after your accident.
Types of Neurological Disorders Caused by Car Accidents
As previously mentioned, there are over 470 types of neurological disorders of which the best neurologists are aware. While a car accident and similar traumatic events can trigger just about any one of those 470 disorders, some neurologic problems are more common after car accidents than others. Below are just a few of them.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that affects how the brain functions. A TBI can arise after a blow, jolt, or bump to the head or as the result of an object penetrating the skull and brain tissue. TBIs range in severity, from a mild concussion to severe brain injury. Mild to moderate brain injuries may have a short-term effect on the way your brain functions, while severe TBIs can be life-changing or even fatal. TBIs are a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, with approximately 61,000 TBI-related deaths recorded each year. This amounts to 166 TBI-related deaths every day.
The symptoms of TBI vary greatly from individual to individual. The longevity and nature of the symptoms depend on several factors, including the type of injury a person sustained, where on the head he or she sustained the injury, preexisting health conditions, lifestyle factors, and more. Symptoms can be physical or psychological, and they can develop immediately or within days, weeks, or months of the triggering event.
Common symptoms of a mild to moderate TBI include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Sensitivity to sound or light
- Sensory issues, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears and foul taste in the mouth
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory problems
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
A moderate to severe TBI may come with many of the same symptoms as a mild TBI, plus one or more of the following symptoms:
- Persistent headache, or a headache that grows worse
- Loss of consciousness for a few minutes to several hours
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- Drainage from the ears or nose
- Dilated pupils
- Inability to awaken from sleep
- Numbness or weakness in the phalanges
- Extreme confusion, agitation or combativeness
- Slurred speech
A neurological evaluation by a car accident doctor is often necessary to diagnose a TBI. Ongoing treatment, therapy and counseling can increase the odds that you will experience a full and speedy recovery. However, know that recovering from a TBI is a highly individualized process and one that requires an in-depth understanding of the cause, severity and type of injury. For this reason, it is crucial that you work with nothing but the best neurologists if your car accident doctor diagnoses you with a traumatic brain injury.
Ataxia is a degenerative disease that’s symptoms closely resemble those of being drunk or drugged. People who develop ataxia may experience moderate to complete loss of muscle control, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, and falling. Ataxia can be both hereditary and acquired.
One way in which people acquire ataxia is through head trauma that causes damage to the spinal cord or brain, such as what might occur in a car accident. If you develop ataxia following a car crash, your doctor will likely label it as “acute cerebellar ataxia.” Some early signs of ataxia that should prompt you to seek medical attention include involuntary eye movements, changes in speech patterns, difficulty swallowing, trouble performing everyday tasks such as eating and writing, and unsteadiness on your feet.
Lumbar Disc Disease
Lumbar disc disease — which many people refer to as herniated discs — is one of the more common neurological disorders caused by a car accident. The spine consists of individual bones, or vertebrae, between each of which are rubbery cushions called discs. These discs separate the vertebrae and prevent them from rubbing against each other.
In most cases, disc herniation is the result of gradual and age-related wear and tear. However, discs can herniate or rupture unexpectedly and as the result of a blow to the back or a traumatic event, such as a car crash. When they herniate, the discs may bulge out from between the vertebrae and press on the surrounding nerves. This can cause everything from minimal discomfort to extreme pain to muscle spasms and weakness. It can also cause sciatica, which is pain that starts near the buttock or lower back and radiates down the leg and into the foot, numbness, decreased reflexes, and changes in bowel movements or urine functions.
Lumbar disc disease does not correct itself. If you develop it, you will likely need ongoing chiropractic treatment, physical therapy and other forms of intervention. Your car accident doctor can assess the severity of your case and work with the appropriate professionals to develop an adequate treatment plan.
Nerve Root Impingement
Nerve root impingement merely refers to nerve roots that are compressed or damaged due to outside trauma. Nerve root impingement typically occurs in the lower back (lumbar nerve pain) or in the neck (brachial neuralgia). Regardless of where it occurs, nerve root impingement often causes extreme pain, sensitivity, numbness, and weakness. It can stem from a single compressed or damaged root or from several.
Though root pain is often a side effect of another underlying condition, such as herniated disc, arthritis and degenerative spinal conditions, it can affect young to middle-aged people who are involved in severe car crashes.
If you experience the symptoms of nerve root impingement, work with your car accident doctor and the best neurologists to develop a treatment plan. Your plan may include the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise, physical therapy and possibly surgery.
Autonomic Nervous System Disruption
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the aspect of your nervous system that controls your vital bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, temperature, digestion, and sensation. These are functions you need to survive but that you do not have to think consciously about performing. Rather, the ANS, which connects your brain to certain organs and body parts, does all the thinking and doing for you.
When all or part of the ANS sustains damage, you may find yourself in a serious or possibly life-threatening situation.
Depending on the type and extent of the dysfunction, your symptoms may be moderate to severe and may include one or more of the following:
- Dizziness and fainting
- Profuse sweating
- Exercise intolerance
- Digestive difficulties, such as constipation, diarrhea and bloating
- Sexual issues
- Blurred vision
You may also experience muscle tremors and weakness. Some cases of ANS are reversible. Unfortunately, others are not only permanent but progressive. If you develop ANS following a car crash, seek out the best neurologists immediately to discuss ways to manage your symptoms and possibly improve your condition.
Traumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) occurs when the space between the surface of the brain and the arachnoid — which refers to one of the brain’s three coverings — begins to bleed. Head trauma is the most common cause of SAH, occurring in as many as 40% of people with brain injuries.
Sadly, and despite a vast improvement in outcomes for people who develop SAH, one-third to one-half of SAH patients either die or go on to live with some level of brain dysfunction. The outcome of a hemorrhage depends on how badly a person was hurt and how quickly he or she receives treatment.
You have the best chances of recovery if you seek a neurological evaluation as soon after your accident as possible. However, if you fail to seek immediate treatment, pay attention to your body for symptoms of SAH. The most common symptom is a severe headache, which many sufferers call “the worst headache of their lives.” In 97% of cases, SAH patients develop this headache. Other symptoms to watch out for include fainting, temporary loss of consciousness, vomiting, double vision, neck stiffness, and lower back pain.
Symptoms of Neurological Disorders
Many car accident injuries result in neurologic conditions for which you should be on the lookout following your crash. Ideally, you will consult with a car accident doctor right away, who can monitor you for symptoms of neurological conditions and other injuries and refer you to the best neurologists if and when the time comes. However, if you choose to forego immediate medical attention, remain vigilant for signs that something is amiss.
Though there exist symptomatic differences between the various neurologic disorders, symptoms that are common of most include the following:
- Excessive pain, especially in the head
- Numbness or muscle weakness
- Muscle atrophy
- Dry mouth or eyes
- Bladder issues or bowel problems
- Excessive sweating or the inability to sweat
- Lightheadedness, faintness or dizziness
- General weakness
- Involuntary twitching, seizures or convulsions
If you develop any of the above symptoms, or if you simply feel as if something is amiss, contact a qualified auto accident doctor right away.
The Global Impact of Neurological Disorders
Studies show that neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide and the second leading cause of mortality across all age groups. Neurologic disorders do not just burden the individuals and families who live with them but also, they burden entire societies. For instance, neurological diseases cost the U.S. healthcare system $800 billion dollars each year.
Researchers project that, alone, dementia and stroke will cost the U.S. $600 billion annually.
Though the costs on an individual basis vary widely based on several factors, studies show that one in six people who do live with some sort of neurological condition pay several out-of-pocket costs that they would not have to pay otherwise. Such costs include increased insurance premiums, the costs of medical care, medications, and therapy fees.
As an example of how vastly the out-of-pocket costs vary within neurologic conditions, researchers focused on multiple sclerosis. What they found was that 5% of people with MS paid just $90 out-of-pocket for condition-related expenses and medical bills each year. The 5% on the other end of the spectrum paid $9,855 or more.
Consult With a Qualified Car Accident Doctor in New York
It is recommended that car accident victims immediately seek medical attention to ensure that any serious injuries are addressed, especially those that might not be immediately obvious. When filing a car accident claim with an insurance company, timely medical records pertaining to an incident are vital.
Car accidents are a common cause of neurologic disorders in people of all ages. Unfortunately, many accident victims fail to connect the development of such disorders with their accidents until it is too late. Do not be one of those people. Take steps to protect your health immediately after your crash. Contact a car accident doctor who can evaluate you, treat injuries, and, if necessary, connect you with the best neurologists in your area. We accept no-fault insurance, workers’ compensation, and other health insurance plans. Schedule your appointment today.
Brain and Spine Foundation: https://www.brainandspine.org.uk/information-and-support/what-is-a-neurological-problem/
John Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/radiculopathy
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html
National Ataxia Foundation: https://www.ataxia.org/what-is-ataxia/
University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation: https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/out-pocket-costs-neurologic-medications-rise-sharply-over-12-years