Delirium

Delirium

Delirium

DDelirium, or a state of acute mental confusion, is a syndrome that displays a varying lack of attention, awareness, and cognitive mental processes such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, or learning. Delirium develops quickly — in hours or days.

Duration

The duration of delirium can last from only a few hours to as long as several weeks or even months.

Symptoms of Delirium:

People with delirium might:

  • Not be able to follow a conversation
  • Be less responsive to pain and/or other stimuli
  • Become more forgetful

They might also experience:

  • Psychomotor agitation – bodily responses to mental activity
  • Reversal of the sleep-wake cycle – sleep during the day, stay awake at night
  • Poorly controlled emotional responses
  • Perceptual disturbances – hallucinations about what they are seeing, hearing, or touching
  • Delusional beliefs, for example, the belief they are being persecuted

Causes of Delirium:

Underlying and reversible changes in the structure, role, and chemical makeup of the body and/or brain can cause delirium. The disease process might happen outside of the brain but still involve the brain. These changes are often brought about by:

  • Infection
  • Medications
  • Drugs
  • Disturbances in bodily health
  • Alcohol excess or withdrawal
  • Medical conditions

Diagnosing Delirium:

A doctor may complete a “confusion screen” to identify the organic cause, which can include numerous investigations such as a CT scan of the head, blood tests, and a chest X-ray.

Treatment of Delirium:

Treating delirium involves identifying and treating the underlying cause, which can include:

  • Providing pain relief
  • Avoiding changes in the surroundings and of caregivers whenever possible
  • Encouraging the involvement of family members or people the patient is familiar with
  • Antipsychotic medication such as haloperidol or olanzapine may be needed to help calm a person experiencing severe paranoia, fear, or hallucinations, or when severe agitation or confusion occurs. These medicines are prescribed for as short a time as possible and are stopped once the delirium has resolved.

Delirium Complications:

Delirium can have serious complications such as:

  • A general worsening of health
  • Poor recovery from surgery
  • The need for institutional care
  • Increased risk of death

People who experience delirium are also more vulnerable to developing dementia in later life.

Symptoms of Delirium:

People with delirium might:

  • Not be able to follow a conversation
  • Be less responsive to pain and/or other stimuli
  • Become more forgetful

They might also experience:

  • Psychomotor agitation – bodily responses to mental activity
  • Reversal of the sleep-wake cycle – sleep during the day, stay awake at night
  • Poorly controlled emotional responses
  • Perceptual disturbances – hallucinations about what they are seeing, hearing, or touching
  • Delusional beliefs, for example, the belief they are being persecuted

Causes of Delirium:

Underlying and reversible changes in the structure, role, and chemical makeup of the body and/or brain can cause delirium. The disease process might happen outside of the brain but still involve the brain. These changes are often brought about by:

  • Infection
  • Medications
  • Drugs
  • Disturbances in bodily health
  • Alcohol excess or withdrawal
  • Medical conditions

Diagnosing Delirium:

A doctor may complete a “confusion screen” to identify the organic cause, which can include numerous investigations such as a CT scan of the head, blood tests, and a chest X-ray.

Treatment of Delirium:

Treating delirium involves identifying and treating the underlying cause, which can include:

  • Providing pain relief
  • Avoiding changes in the surroundings and of caregivers whenever possible
  • Encouraging the involvement of family members or people the patient is familiar with
  • Antipsychotic medication such as haloperidol or olanzapine may be needed to help calm a person experiencing severe paranoia, fear, or hallucinations, or when severe agitation or confusion occurs. These medicines are prescribed for as short a time as possible and are stopped once the delirium has resolved.

Delirium Complications:

Delirium can have serious complications such as:

  • A general worsening of health
  • Poor recovery from surgery
  • The need for institutional care
  • Increased risk of death

People who experience delirium are also more vulnerable to developing dementia in later life.

Source MAYO CLINIC