Hormone therapy can offer both physical and cognitive benefits to TBI patients, according to the most recent research.
Today you will learn what TBI hormone therapy is and how it can help boost your recovery.
What is TBI Hormone Therapy?
Hormone therapy replaces depleted or insufficient hormones in the body. This can be critical for brain injury patients with hypothalamic damage.
Hormones play a role in nearly every bodily function, from adrenaline production to body temperature. They can also affect muscle strength and cognitive abilities.
Hormonal problems can cause many of the same side effects associated with brain damage, such as:
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Concentration problems
- Muscle weakness
Unfortunately, unlike with other types of brain injury symptoms, problems caused by hormone depletion cannot be treated with traditional therapy.
Unfortunately, treatments that focus on rewiring the brain through exercise will not have an effect.
That is where TBI hormone therapy comes in.
Types of Hormone Therapy for TBI Patients
Hormone therapy is the most effective therapy for hormonal issues after brain injury.
There are many different hormone therapies you can participate in, depending on what you are deficient in.
Growth hormone deficiency is the most common deficiency in traumatic brain injury patients. It is especially frequent in patients with moderate to severe brain injuries.
Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency include:
- Rapid weight gain
- Low levels of other hormones
- Poor physical health
- Anxiety and depression
- Problems with attention, memory, executive function, and emotions
Growth hormone is responsible for regulating body growth in children, but it also plays a critical role in adulthood.
For example, growth hormone increases the number of receptors for other hormones throughout the body. This increases the body’s sensitivity to those hormones, making it easier for them to do their jobs.
In addition, growth hormone receptors are found throughout the brain itself, especially in the regions associated with learning and memory. This may explain why low growth hormone levels can cause cognitive problems.
All of this makes growth hormone replacement one of the most important therapies for TBI patients.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland on the front of your neck. It produces several hormones that are critical for functions such as metabolism, growth, body temperature, and several others.
If the thyroid does not receive stimulation from the brain, however, it cannot produce these crucial hormones. This leads to hypothyroidism, which can cause the following problems:
- Concentration and memory problems
- Unexplained weight gain
- Dry skin
- Extreme fatigue
- Infertility and/or irregular periods
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy uses synthetic hormones to help raise low levels of natural thyroid hormones in the body and treat these issues. The synthetic hormones are usually given in pill form.
The most commonly used thyroid replacement is pure synthetic thyroxine.
Cortisol is an important hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Its primary role is to help with the body’s stress response; however, it plays a crucial part in many other bodily functions.
Cortisol can help:
- Control blood sugar levels
- Regulate metabolism
- Reduce inflammation
- Assist with memory formation
Brain injury can affect how much cortisol is released into the bloodstream. For example, if a brain injury causes the hypothalamus to malfunction, the adrenal glands can also malfunction.
This can lead to low cortisol levels, which causes several problems, including:
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Vomiting and dehydration
Fortunately, cortisol replacement therapy can help treat these problems. Treatment usually involves taking oral corticosteroids such as:
These hormones must be taken on a schedule to mimic the natural 24-hour fluctuation of cortisol levels.
Melatonin is an important hormone produced by the brain to help regulate a person’s sleep/wake cycle.
Sleep disorders such as post-traumatic insomnia and sleep apnea are common after TBI, mainly because the brain no longer produces melatonin at the level it used to.
Your brain controls your sleep patterns through circadian rhythms that tell the body when to sleep and when to wake. Injury to the areas of the brain that send these signals can disturb your body’s internal clock. This will make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Melatonin supplements can help you get your sleep cycle back under control. In addition, studies have shown that melatonin is a potent anti-inflammatory and may help improve TBI outcome.
How to Start TBI Hormone Therapy
If you are interested in trying hormone therapy to treat your symptoms, talk to a neuroendocrinologist.
Neuroendocrinologists specialize in TBI’s effects on the body’s hormone levels. They can help you identify which hormones you might be low on.
To test your hormone levels, the doctor might take a sample of your blood or saliva. For example, to diagnose growth hormone deficiency, both a blood test and an MRI are often used. The MRI allows the doctor to see any hypothalamus damage that might have occurred.
Once the diagnosis is made, the endocrinologist will prescribe you with the proper hormone replacements and dosages. Most hormones can be taken as a pill, but some might have to be delivered through an I.V.
How Long Will You Need Treatment?
The amount of time you will need to use hormone therapy depends on how severe the problem is.
Some hormone deficiencies resolve after a few months, while others will most likely be permanent.
Schedule a follow up with a doctor every few months to make sure the therapy is working correctly. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any negative side effects from the hormones. Some side effects may include:
- Mood swings
TBI Hormone Therapy: Conclusion
The effects of hormone depletion on brain injury patients can be serious, even life-threatening.
But because the symptoms look so much like ordinary brain injury symptoms, it can be easy to overlook them. That’s why hormone therapy is such an important part of TBI treatment.
Even if you are not sure if your symptoms are caused by hormonal insufficiency, have your levels checked anyways. Replacing low hormones can drastically improve your quality of life and may even boost your cognitive skills. Therefore, it is worth finding out if it might be an option for you.
Featured Image: ©iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz