If you have suffered a head injury, it is important to be aware of skull fracture symptoms. A skull fracture can occur when there is a break in the bone that makes up the skull. This type of injury can be very serious and require emergency medical attention. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of a skull fracture and what to do if you think you may have one.
- What is a skull fracture?
- What are skull fracture symptoms?
- How is it diagnosed?
- What are the treatment options?
- What is the prognosis for skull fractures?
- Are there any risks associated with skull fractures?
- Can skull fractures be prevented?
What is a skull fracture?
A skull fracture is a break in the bone on our head called the skull. It is usually a result of a traumatic injury. Doctors primarily categorize this head injury as open or closed.
Closed fractures are more common and are the type that you usually don’t see the bone. Open fractures are when the bone breaks and is visible outside the skin.
Whether your head fracture is closed or open, this can be life-threatening if the brain is damaged.
Other types of skull fractures
The skull fracture type depends on the force of the blow, impact location on the skull, and the shape of the object making an impact with the head. For instance, a pointy object is more likely to penetrate the skull than a hard, blunt surface, such as the ground. Different types of fractures lead to differing levels of injury and trauma.
Depressed skull fracture
This refers to a fracture that causes the skull to indent or extend into the brain cavity.
Basal or basilar skull fracture
A basal fracture occurs in the skull floor: the areas around the eyes, ears, nose, or at the top of the neck, near the spine.
In addition to the above types, fractures can also classify as:
- linear skull fracture (in a straight line)
- comminuted or compound fracture (broken into three or more sections)
What are skull fracture symptoms?
Symptoms of a skull fracture depend on the type and severity of the injury.
Closed fractures, which are more common, usually don’t have any symptoms besides pain from the injured bone pressing up against the brain. However, open fractures are more serious because the bone is visible outside of the skin and there is a higher risk of infection.
The following are serious signs of a skull fracture:
- bleeding from the trauma’s wound, at the trauma’s site, or around the eyes, ears, and nose
- bruises surrounding the trauma site, under the eyes (raccoon eyes), or behind the ears (Battle’s sign)
- severe pain or discomfort at the location of the trauma
- swelling at the trauma site
- redness or warmth at the location of the trauma
Less severe symptoms, or those that do not necessarily appear to be associated with a skull fracture, may include:
- headache and dizziness
- vision hazard
- restlessness or anxiety
- loss of balance
- neck stiffness
- pupils non-reactive to light
- confusion or disorientation
- extreme sleepiness (lethargy)
- fainting or loss of consciousness
If you think you may have a fractured skull or experience any of the signs of a mild or severe head injury, it’s important to get medical assistance so you can get checked out right away.
How is it diagnosed?
A simple physical examination is all it takes to diagnose head injuries in some cases. However, your doctor needs more diagnostic procedures to determine you have a minor or severe head injury.
Skull fracture diagnosis is typically done with imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans or MRIs. The doctor will look for fractures in the skull and signs of brain injury. If there is any suspicion of a skull fracture, even if the person doesn’t have any symptoms, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional.
What are the treatment options?
There are a few treatment options for most skull fractures, depending on the severity of the injury.
Closed fractures can often be treated by rest and pain medication. Patients can also use ice packs to reduce swelling. If there is a risk of infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Open fractures are more serious and require urgent medical attention. The bone will need to be cleaned and dressed to prevent infection. Surgery may also be necessary to fix the fracture.
In basal skull fractures, medication to manage pain may be all that’s needed. Although narcotics may sometimes be necessary, most people with a skull fracture only need over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a short course. However, a basal fracture may also require surgery if it results in excessive cerebrospinal fluid leakage from the nose and ears.
Surgery is more often a required course of treatment for depressed skull fractures if the depression is severe enough. This is because depressed skull fractures have a harder time healing on their own.
Depressed skull fractures could result in cosmetic issues, and even potentially severe brain injury if the fracture isn’t corrected. Surgery may also be necessary if the depression puts pressure on the brain or cerebrospinal fluid leakage.
If there is any suspicion of a skullbone fracture, even if the person doesn’t have any symptoms, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional.
What is the prognosis for skull fractures?
Most people who have skull fractures heal on their own and make a full recovery. However, depending on the severity of the underlying brain injury, there may be some long-term effects. You can expect a person who suffered from mild head injuries to occasionally complain of headache, disorientation, or anxiety. Likewise, traumatic brain injury can cause moderate to severe symptoms that require further treatment and monitoring.
Are there any risks associated with skull fractures?
There are a few risks associated with skull fractures. One of the most serious is infection. If bone fragments break off and get into the brain, they can cause additional damage. Skull fractures can also lead to long-term headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Severe head injuries can also result in long-term cognitive problems or coma.
Can skull fractures be prevented?
Skullbone fractures can often be prevented by taking some simple safety precautions.
- Wearing a helmet when playing sports or riding a bike can help reduce the risk of a head injury.
- You can also prevent skull fractures by wearing a helmet at work. If you work around heavy equipment, a hard hat could help prevent a skull fracture if you are involved in an accident.
- If you are involved in a car accident, wearing a seat belt will help keep you from hitting your head.
- Lastly, there are a number of household items that could help prevent skull fractures. For example, make sure your child’s crib has a protective bumper to cushion their head if they roll. In addition, make sure the rims of your bathtub are sturdy enough to support you when you stand up from a fall.
- Skull fractures can also be prevented by avoiding dangerous activities, such as drinking and driving.