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Pseudobulbar Affect Common after Brain Injury Often Undiagnosed


Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury commonly experience surprising difficulties, different from those initially encountered, months and years after the injury occurs. Pseudobulbar affect, a condition that causes unexpected crying or laughter, often at odd or inappropriate times, is one type of problem that happens to many TBI sufferers.

The outbursts associated with this type of condition are involuntary and unpredictable, although they’re often coupled with emotional stimuli, such as deep sobbing at something that most people would regard as only mildly saddening, or even laughter during solemn occasions, such as a funeral.

Pseudobulbar affect (also known as PBA) is a secondary condition, meaning it is caused by something else other than the actual TBI. It is associated with structural changes to the brain, which can result from injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and other ailments. Despite its connection with these all-to-common conditions, it often goes undiagnosed, even though it is estimated that over one million people are afflicted with PBA.

The Brain Injury Association of America recently conducted a study and looked at symptoms of PBA in over 300 subjects. Nearly 80 percent of those studied experienced episodes of PBA, and about half reported having experienced it on a regular basis. And yet only seven percent of respondents had even heard of pseudobulbar effect.

One possible reason PBA is often undiagnosed is that, for many years, there was no FDA-approved treatment for it. That changed in late 2010 when the FDA finally approved a new drug to treat PBA. The treatment mixes a popular cough suppressant with a drug used to restore erratic heartbeats to normal rhythms.

The increased attention on PBA and the high number of TBI patients who suffer from the condition will hopefully lead to greater testing and diagnosis of this condition in the future.

If the symptoms of PBA sound familiar to you and you believe you or someone you know may be affected, talk to a doctor. If you believe PBA may have been caused by a brain injury or other accident, speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney who can discuss your legal rights to compensation is recommended.


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