What are the effects of brain swelling?

Brain swelling, also known as cerebral edema, usually occurs when there is some type of brain injury or when a disease affects the brain. There are numerous causes of brain swelling, including brain injuries, strokes, infections, tumors, and altitude sickness. The swelling can occur in just part of the brain or in the entire brain. Short-term effects of swelling in the brain can include confusion, disorientation, vertigo, nausea, and agitation. Long-term effects of cerebral edema can include cognitive and language problems, memory problems, dizziness, headache, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

The human brain, like most other tissues in the human body, can swell in response to infection, injury, or disease. However, brain swelling can be dangerous, because the skull bones often don't leave much room for brain swelling. Pressure can build up inside the skull, increasing the risk of brain damage with cerebral edema. When intracranial pressure occurs with brain swelling, the brain often doesn't get the oxygen it needs to heal and function.

Causes of brain swelling can include infectious diseases such as meningitis. Head injuries, brain tumors, strokes, and hemorrhages can also cause swelling of parts of the brain or the whole brain. Altitude sickness can also cause cerebral edema, especially when it is severe.

In the short term, brain swelling can have a number of physical and cognitive effects. Symptoms of brain swelling can be more or less severe depending on the severity of the swelling. Mild to moderate cerebral edema usually causes short-term symptoms of nausea, dizziness, vertigo, and confusion. More severe swelling can cause restlessness, agitation, vomiting, and drowsiness. Coordination and balance can be affected, and the pupils of the eyes may not react properly to light stimulation.

In the long term, cerebral edema can have serious effects on cognitive functioning. Symptoms of dizziness, fatigue, and headache may continue. Insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and depression may occur. Cognitive difficulties, such as decreased memory, an inability to think clearly, and difficulty paying attention or concentrating, may be among the long-term effects of cerebral edema. Language, reasoning, emotionality, and initiative can suffer in the long term due to brain swelling. The long-term effects of cerebral edema can last for quite some time after the swelling has healed, even for years.

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