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The Pseudobulbar Affect: Side Effect of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Pseudobulbar affect causes involuntary and unpredictable outbursts of laughing or crying that often occur in socially-inappropriate situations. A recent study revealed that many people who have experienced traumatic brain injury are unaware of this common condition - and in most cases, their doctors also had never heard of it.

Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)

According to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a neurological disease caused by underlying structural damage in the brain. It triggers sudden, involuntary and disruptive outbursts of laughing or crying, often when a person does not feel like laughing or crying. It is estimated that more than a million people suffer from PBA in the U.S.

PBA is prevalent among people with neurologic conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain tumors and traumatic brain injury. The effects of PBA can be devastating because it interferes with relationships and employment as people are already adjusting to life with a brain injury or other neurologic condition.

PBA Study

In fall 2010, the BIAA conducted a survey of its constituents-people living with brain injury and their caregivers-in conjunction with Avanir Pharmaceuticals. The purpose of the study was to gather information on the prevalence, severity and impact of PBA as well as general awareness of the condition. To qualify for the survey, respondents were required to meet a minimum score on the Center for Neurologic Study Liability Scale.

The study found that almost 80 percent of qualified respondents reported experiencing PBA-like episodes. Forty-eight percent of the respondents said PBA episodes affect them on a regular basis. Surprisingly, however, only seven percent were aware of the term pseudobulbar affect.

Additionally, 35 percent of respondents consider the involuntary laughing or crying extremely or very burdensome; nearly 60 percent stated that PBA episodes interfere with social activities, including time with family and friends.

Susan H. Connors, president and CEO of the BIAA said that PBA is a "misunderstood and underdiagnosed, yet separate and treatable medical condition." Recognizing PBA and treating it appropriately can greatly improve quality of life for individuals with brain injuries.

For many years, doctors treated PBA with off-label prescriptions for antidepressants. In November, though, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug specifically designed to alleviate the symptoms of PBA.

If you have suffered traumatic brain injury due to a motor vehicle accident or workplace injury, contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area. An attorney experienced in brain injury cases can discuss any legal claims you may have and help you get the medical treatment you deserve.

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