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Should I be worried about long-term effects of a recent car accident?

When you suffer painful injuries as a result of a car accident, although you may worry about your future, the main thing you need to focus on is your present rehabilitation. If you’re lucky, a few weeks of physical therapy can quickly put you back on the road to recovery. However, some injuries can require lengthy surgeries and months—even years—of treatment to heal, and even then the risk of permanent effects could wind up causing a lifetime of pain.

Although you may be in the beginning stages of recovery, should you be worrying about and preparing for potential long-term injury effects?

The Future Effects of Car Accident Injuries

According to research performed by scientists at Oxford University, car accident injuries can have many long-term physical and psychological effects on their victims well after their recovery, and even months or years after the initial injury. These long-term complications include:

Physical Effects

  • Cognitive changes and degeneration following a head injury. The brain is an extremely complex organ where small changes or injuries can cause changes in function. For example, the development of scar tissue can put pressure on nearby parts of the brain, causing communication and functional issues. In addition, the brain already starts to lose its adaptability as you get older, causing memory loss and cognitive strain. However, if your brain is already damaged, memory loss and cognitive function can begin earlier or worsen.
  • Increased risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Although research isn’t complete, the Mayo Clinic suggests that if you suffer a brain injury that causes you to be unconscious for more than 24 hours or causes you to have episodes of memory loss, your risk for dementia and other degenerative brain diseases could increase as you get older.
  • Bone spurs. When a bone breaks, it can chip and leave behind pieces of bone fragments in your muscles and tissues. These fragments can go unnoticed for years until they calcify and grow. Once they grow, they can press on blood vessels, push on muscles and tissues, and cause severe pain.
  • Loss of strength. Although broken bones heal, they’ll never be as strong as they once were.
  • Early-onset arthritis. When a broken bone becomes weaker than other bones, you may wind up adjusting your gait—the way you walk and the way you hold yourself. This adjustment can put extra pressure and work on other joints. Although this may go unnoticed, the added strain can increase your joints’ risk of arthritis down the road.

Psychological Effects

  • Increased anxiety. Any type of tragedy or stressful event can cause varying degrees of psychological trauma, from anxiety to PTSD. In some cases, these psychological complications can remain dormant or blocked until something triggers memories and brings them to the forefront of the mind. Triggers might include a loved one suffering a similar accident, a photo of the wreckage, sudden pain in the injury site, etc.
  • Increased risk of depression. Dealing with the long-term physical effects of an injury can be hard to take, especially when you had to go through a lot during recovery. This pain and stress can lead to depression and a feeling of hopelessness.

These are only a few of the potential long-term accident complications you may face. This is why it is important not only to discuss your future with your doctor, but also make sure you understand and plan for these risks when pursuing an accident injury claim.

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