Hypothalamic dysfunction: A hidden side effect of brain injury

Serious Injury News

Head injuries can result in a wide range of symptoms, including (but not limited to) headaches, memory loss, depression, mood swings, fatigue, physical disabilities and changes in mood. Less well-known is the effect a head injury can have on the hypothalamic region of the brain, which may result in hormone changes.

A lack of specific hormones may have a marked impact on an individual’s life, but it may not be apparent that any bodily changes are linked to a previous head trauma. Brain injury is often labelled a ‘hidden disability’ as the impact of the injury is not always obvious.

What is the hypothalamus?

A part of the endocrine system in the body, the hypothalamus is a section of the brain which has links to the body’s nervous system and pituitary gland. Given the influence our nervous system and pituitary gland have over key functions which regulate our mood and emotions, any dysfunction with the hypothalamus can have a dramatic effect on our day-to-day mental and physical health. Damage of this nature can impact upon a person’s ability to work or maintain an active family and social life.

The hypothalamus helps to regulate very important functions, such as our emotions and energy levels. Although people can be born with a hypothalamic dysfunction, it can also be caused by a head injury. The relationship between the brain and the body is of course a very complex one, and it may not be apparent that certain changes in the body are wholly down to a change in the brain, stemming from a personal injury.

Hypothalamic dysfunction symptoms

Given that the function of the hypothalamus is hormonal and directly-related to ensuring the body remains correctly balanced, a huge array of symptoms and illnesses can be caused as a direct result of an injury to this section of the fore-brain.

Hypothalamic dysfunction symptoms may include an inability to regulate body temperature, lack of feeling thirst or hunger, complete loss of fear or adrenaline, inability to pass water sufficiently or too regularly, water retention and insomnia. All of these issues may be attributable to a hormonal imbalance, which may well have been the result of a head injury.

Expert View

One of the most commonly overlooked and under diagnosed effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is early recognition and treatment of endocrine complications which left untreated can affect the production of hormones and have a significant impact on the person with a brain injury, and particularly on the outcome of their rehabilitation. At Neural Pathways we know that prompt diagnosis and treatment of endocrine complications as part of the holistic management of a TBI facilitates the rehabilitation process and seeing the right person at the right time to address this is essential.

Jackie Waggott BHSc (Hons) MCSP – Strategic Lead / Specialist Physiotherapist –

Serious Injury in the North-East

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