Could Blood Deprivation Cause Brain Damage?

Severe blood deprivation can lead to short- and long-term brain damage.

By Rocketclips, Inc. at Shutterstock

Your body’s blood delivers oxygen to all of the organs. This includes the brain, which requires a constant supply of both blood and oxygen. Without either, the brain is forced to shut down, leading to irreversible brain damage.

This condition is known as brain hypoxia or brain anoxia. The body will respond by increasing the blood flow to the brain. However, the body can only naturally double the normal level. If this is not enough to compensate for the damage, brain function will decrease and negative symptoms will begin to present themselves.

Effects of Brain Anoxia

Your body will immediately respond to a lack of blood or oxygen to the brain. Of course, how it reacts depends on the extent of the injury. The worse the injury, the more extreme the effects will be.

If the cerebral anoxia is relatively mild, you may experience noticeable issues with concentration, attention span, coordination, and short-term memory. These symptoms are likely to be subtle at first. You may also experience a headache, lightheadedness, dizziness, or trouble breathing.

If the anoxia is more severe, you’ll experience confusion, agitation, and drowsiness. The skin will start to turn a bluish color. This is often most apparent around the lips, mouth, and fingertips.

The nerve cells within the brain are extremely sensitive. A distinct lack of blood or oxygen to these will produce damage to the cells. Some areas are more vulnerable than others, though.

During a significant interruption of blood flow, such as during a heart attack, the areas furthest from the three major arteries supplying the brain are likely to be damaged first. These areas may lead to infarction (tissue death), which in turn contributes to a risk of strokes.

Long-Term Effects

There are long-term consequences of blood or oxygen loss to the brain, the severity of which depends on how irreversible the damage is to the brain. A short-lived anoxia, for instance, may result in a complete recovery. A more severe anoxia, however, usually leads to long-term effects.

Noticeable effects of blood and oxygen depletion often include damage to:

  • The cerebral cortex, which leads to limb weakness, movement and balance issues, and a loss of coordination.
  • The occipital lab, contributing to a loss of visual function, known as cortical blindness.
  • The hippocampus, near the inner surface of the temporal lobe, which can result in memory problems.
  • The areas of the brain involved with the production and articulation of speech, causing a disturbance in speech patterns and written communication.
  • The hypothalamus or pituitary gland, leading to hormonal issues, including hypopituitarism.

As you can see, there are both short- and long-term effects of blood and oxygen loss to the brain. Your brain cannot function correctly without a constant supply of both. After a severe injury or a heart attack, immediately go to the hospital to schedule a brain scan. The damage may be hidden at first, but it will most likely present itself over time.

For traumatic brain injury support, visit our community at TryMunity. We have a large support network spanning the whole country.