What are the Most Common Causes of Brain Swelling?

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  • Written By: M. DePietro
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 August 2019
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Swelling of the brain is very serious and can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. There are several causes of brain swelling, with the most common being a traumatic head injury, stroke, and infection. Other causes may be less common, but do occur, such as brain lesions and side effects of being at a high elevation.

A traumatic brain injury is trauma to a part of the brain. It is one of the leading causes of brain swelling. A brain injury can be caused by several things, including a car accident or fall. The brain responds similarly to other areas of the body when it receives trauma — It starts to swell.

Another common cause of swelling in the brain is infection, such as encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain. Infections such as these are caused by viruses or bacteria. Meningitis is another common infection that can lead to swelling of the brain. In the case of meningitis, the infection can be caused by either a bacteria or virus.

An abscess, which is also a type of infection, can also form in other areas of the head, such as the teeth or sinuses. When this occurs, it is possible the abscess will spread to the brain. If this happens, swelling in the brain may develop.


Brain tumors or lesions also are known to cause swelling in the brain. Tumors may originate in the brain or spread from other areas of the body. As the tumor grows, it can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which leads to swelling. One of the rare causes of swelling in the brain is severe mountain sickness. This develops when someone is at a high altitude, most often above 5,000 feet.

Symptoms of brain swelling include severe headache, nausea, and vomiting. Depending on the degree of swelling, confusion, loss of balance, seizures, and loss of consciousness may occur. Diagnosing brain swelling is done through a neurological exam and tests such as a CT scan and MRI.

Treating brain swelling promptly is essential to prevent permanent brain damage or death. Various treatments may be needed, depending on how severe the swelling in the brain is. Medication sometimes helps reduce swelling.

In more extreme cases of swelling in the brain, the patient may need to have a breathing tube to help with breathing. In some cases of brain swelling, doctors will try to lower a patient’s body temperature. Keeping the patient cool may reduce swelling. Surgery may also be necessary, such as removing a portion of the skull to allow the brain to expand without damaging the tissue.


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Post 1

Brain injuries or even death from bike or skateboard injuries are devastating. They can often be avoided.

The best thing you can do is to get on the helmet kick. Always remind kids about their helmet and make sure you start them at a young age. Make using a helmet a natural part of their bike or skateboard.

The best way to start is by having the child pick the helmet you get them. This way they have ownership over it. They picked it so it is best for them.

A major part of keeping kids on the helmet kick is to not be a hypocrite. Wear your own helmet when you do something where a helmet should be worn.

Show them. Watch any professional bike racer or pro skateboarder and point out their helmet. Bring them to a professional rally and show them, "it's what the professionals do".

The bottom line should always be, no helmet, no bike. Stick to this mantra when dealing with safety. You catch them without their helmet and no bike or skateboard. Take them away for a bit.

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