What is Traumatic brain injury?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be classified as a change in brain function as a result of physical trauma or pathology. A large number of people all over the world incur traumatic brain injuries every year. It is a significant cause of mortality among individuals of all different ages and can lead to life-long impairment among survivors. The most common cause of TBI is motor vehicle accidents, followed by falls, sports related injuries, and physical violence.
How does brain injury affect hormonal regulation?
Disruption of neurological hormone regulation is one of the many potential side-effects of traumatic brain injury. There are structures in the brain, such as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, that are critical in maintaining the body’s hormone regulation. As a result of traumatic brain injury, it is possible for these structures to be impacted and to subsequently release either too much or too little of certain hormones. For example, hypopituitarism has been observed in a large number of patients who have experienced traumatic brain injury. Hypopituitarism is characterized by an insufficient amount of hormone release from the pituitary gland which can lead to a wide-range of side-effects. There are different pituitary hormones that can be affected by traumatic brain injury. One study showed that Growth Hormone was the most common pituitary hormone to be influenced by TBI. Although more research should be done to determine the specific and lasting impacts that TBI has on hormone regulation, it is clear that this is a potential side-effect of TBI and something that can be considered when assessing the long term and disabling effect that TBI has on the lives of patients.
Symptoms that hormonal changes may cause
When hormone regulation is altered, the body’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment, otherwise known as homeostasis, may be compromised. The symptoms that manifest as a result of changes in hormone regulation due to TBI are wide ranging because of the various hormones that may be affected. Symptoms that patients may experience as a result of changes in hormone regulation include:
- Irregular periods
- Reduced fertility
- Cold sensitivity
- Mood swings
- Sexual difficulties (such as impotence)
Hormone therapy is a common method used to treat hormone deregulation. A variety of specific hormones can be introduced into the body in order to compensate for insufficient hormone production. In many cases this can lead to alleviation of symptoms and can even be life saving for some patients.