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Often overlooked, undertreated part of brain injuries

More than three million Americans live with traumatic brain injuries. Here in Massachusetts, we have the lowest rate of traumatic brain injury (TBI) fatalities in the nation at 9.9 per 100,000 residents.

Statistics like that are cold comfort to those who live every day with TBI, however. A recent article on TBI by U.S. News & World Report indicates that an often unspoken problem is that many must deal with sexual dysfunction.

Sexual problems are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the other physical and emotional difficulties TBI victims must cope with, so they are sometimes overlooked, a new study indicates.

Sexual problems often become apparent after about half a year has passed after the injury. The problems will, if left untreated, often worsen over time, a neuropsychology researcher and study author said.

TBI is the result of external force that causes traumatic injury to the brain. It is often the result of a car accident, a fall or a slip, violence or a mishap in an athletic event.

The study recently published looked at more than 1,400 patients, as well as their spouses and partners, and rehabilitation specialists who work with TBI patients.

Researchers found that about 50 percent to 60 percent of people with TBI have sexual difficulties, that can include loss of interest in sex, pain during sex, erectile dysfunction and lowered self-esteem and perception of sexual appeal.

For partners and spouses often thrust into the role of caregiver, sexual desire can also be impacted by the changes brought about by TBI.

The author of the study said the rate of marital separation soars among people with traumatic brain injuries.

It should be noted that anyone who suffers as a result of TBI caused by someone else's negligence has the right to seek compensation for needed medical treatments during recovery.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Sex Lives Often an Overlooked Casualty of Traumatic Brain Injury," April 29, 2013

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