If your brain injury symptoms aren’t improving, you might be experiencing neuroendocrine disorders after traumatic brain injury.
These disorders can cause many classic TBI symptoms, such as fatigue and memory problems.
However, they aren’t a result of damage to your brain, but damage to your body’s endocrine system.
Therefore, they will require different treatment.
To help you learn how to treat these problems, this article will give you a brief rundown of everything you need to know about neuroendocrine disorders after traumatic brain injury.
Neuroendocrine Disorders after Traumatic Brain Injury
Neuroendocrine disorders after traumatic brain injury can cause serious side effects.
That’s because they cause problems with your hormones, which help nearly every organ in your body function smoothly.
To understand how TBI can affect your hormones, let’s look closer at the body’s endocrine system.
What is the Endocrine System?
Every part of your body, from your skin to your kidneys, has an important job to do.
The only catch is they don’t know what to do unless your brain tells them. And the way the brain communicates with your organs is through the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is a vast network of glands spread throughout your body. These glands send out chemical messengers, called hormones, which tell each organ what to do and when to do it.
How the brain controls your hormones
In the very center of your brain, there is a tiny structure called the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus controls the entire endocrine system by sending signals to the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland, which is also in the brain, sends out hormones to all the other organs and glands.
For example, when the hypothalamus detects low levels of adrenaline, it sends a message to the pituitary. The pituitary gland then releases hormones into the bloodstream, which tell the adrenal glands to produce more adrenaline.
This process can normally keep the body’s hormones balanced, which lets everything run smoothly.
Symptoms of Neuroendocrine Disorders after Traumatic Brain Injury
Now that you know a little more about how the endocrine system works, you can hopefully see why a traumatic brain injury can make your hormones go haywire.
Because, if the hypothalamus becomes damaged, it can no longer signal the pituitary to send out hormones. Which means all the organs that rely on hormones won’t know what to do anymore.
Many of the signs of neuroendocrine disorders overlap with normal traumatic brain injury side effects. These include:
- Memory and concentration problems
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression and anxiety
- Emotional lability (mood swings)
There are, however, some unique symptoms of hormonal problems after TBI, which we’ll look at below.
If the adrenal glands aren’t making enough adrenaline, you can experience not only fatigue but also:
- Weight loss
- Low blood pressure
This is a life-threatening condition if left untreated, so if you suspect you have this, talk to your doctor right away.
When the pituitary gland does not produce enough anti-diuretic hormones, your body will lose more water than it should. This causes you to become dehydrated.
Symptoms of diabetes insipidus include frequent urination and extreme thirst.
On the other hand, some hormone problems make the body retain too much water.
This leads to headaches, vomiting, confusion, and seizures.
Finally, some neuroendocrine disorders cause your thyroid to not produce enough thyroid hormones.
This can lead to weight gain, muscle loss, extreme fatigue, depression, irregular periods in women, and feeling too hot or too cold.
How Common are Neuroendocrine Disorders after Traumatic Brain Injury?
Even though most doctors tend to overlook endocrine dysfunction when treating TBI, the data shows that hormone problems are common after brain injury.
In fact, at least 30% of TBI patients experience neuroendocrine disorders after their injury. Even people with mild brain injuries can experience them.
This makes sense, since the hypothalamus is fragile and easily damaged by secondary brain injuries.
That’s why more and more treatment guidelines recommend that doctors screen their TBI patients for hormonal deficiencies.
How to Diagnose and Treat Neuroendocrine Disorders after Traumatic Brain Injury
Because these issues share so many characteristics with other types of brain injury, it can take time to diagnose them correctly.
The problem is, the treatments used for other types of brain damage are generally useless against neuroendocrine disorders.
Living with these issues for too long can severely set back your recovery. You can exercise every day and still not see improvement.
Luckily, a quick blood test is usually enough to detect any problems with your hormones.
Once you figure out which hormones you lack, an endocrinologist can prescribe you synthetic hormones and other medications to treat your condition.
Neuroendocrine Disorders After Traumatic Brain Injury: Conclusion
Neuroendocrine disorders after traumatic brain injury are hard to recognize at first, but can cause many harmful side effects.
That’s why TBI patients and their doctors need to become more aware of how hormonal problems can affect their recovery.
So, if you feel like your symptoms are not improving, ask your doctor if your endocrine system is working correctly.
The sooner you get your hormones under control, the sooner you can get back to making progress on your recovery!
We hope this article has given you a better sense of the importance of the neuroendocrine system and will help you find the treatment you need to succeed.