Delirium is a sudden and severe deterioration of mental abilities characterized by confusion and a lack of awareness of one’s surroundings. It typically develops rapidly within a few hours or days and can be caused by various factors, including severe illness, imbalances in the body, certain medications, infections, surgeries, or alcohol/drug use or withdrawal. Distinguishing delirium from dementia can be challenging, and healthcare providers often rely on information from family members or caregivers to make an accurate diagnosis.
Delirium is a condition that involves a rapid decline in cognitive function, leading to difficulties in concentration and maintaining awareness. It occurs when there is widespread disruption in brain activity, often resulting from a combination of contributing factors. Delirium is commonly observed in medical settings, such as during prolonged hospital stays or in long-term care facilities.
The primary objective in treating delirium is to identify and address the underlying causes or triggers. This may involve discontinuing certain medications, treating infections, or correcting imbalances in the body. By addressing the root causes, healthcare professionals aim to alleviate the symptoms and improve the individual’s cognitive function and overall well-being.
Delirium typically manifests gradually over hours or days, often accompanying an underlying medical condition. Its symptoms fluctuate throughout the day, with periods of no symptoms. Nighttime and unfamiliar environments, like hospitals, can intensify symptoms. Delirium represents a broad disruption in brain activity, resulting in diverse manifestations. Symptoms vary among individuals and can change over time. Delirium’s misleading label of “sundowning” arises from its tendency to improve during the day but worsen as evening approaches.
The following are primary symptoms.
This could lead to:
This could manifest as:
These consists of:
Three types of delirium that have been recognized by experts:
Delirium and dementia are distinct conditions with some similarities, but they have important differences. Delirium is characterized by fluctuating symptoms that can improve and worsen rapidly. On the other hand, dementia refers to a gradual and steady decline in cognitive abilities. Although delirium and dementia share similarities, it is crucial to recognize their distinctions. They can coexist and overlap, and individuals with dementia are at a higher risk of experiencing delirium. Additionally, delirium can accelerate the progression of dementia or exacerbate existing symptoms.
The following are some distinctions between dementia and delirium symptoms:
If you observe symptoms of delirium in a relative, friend, or someone under your care, it is essential to communicate with their healthcare provider. Your input regarding their symptoms, cognitive abilities, and typical behavior will be valuable in diagnosing the condition and identifying its underlying cause.
In the case of individuals in hospitals or nursing homes, if you notice any signs of delirium, it is important to report your concerns to the nursing staff or healthcare provider. These symptoms may not have been previously observed, and older individuals in such settings are particularly vulnerable to delirium.
Delirium occurs when there is a disruption in the transmission and reception of signals in the brain. It can be caused by various factors, either individually or in combination. These include the use of certain medications or their side effects, alcohol or drug use or withdrawal, underlying medical conditions such as stroke, heart attack, deteriorating lung or liver disease, or injuries from falls. Imbalances in the body, like low sodium or calcium levels, severe and prolonged illnesses, fever and new infections (especially in children), urinary tract infections, pneumonia, flu, or COVID-19 (particularly in older adults), exposure to toxins such as carbon monoxide or cyanide, inadequate nutrition or excessive fluid loss, lack of sleep or extreme emotional distress, pain, and undergoing surgery or medical procedures requiring sedation.
Certain medications, whether used individually or in conjunction with others, have the potential to induce delirium. These include drugs employed for the management of pain, sleep disorders, mood-related conditions like anxiety and depression, allergies, asthma, swelling, Parkinson’s disease, as well as those prescribed for spasms or convulsions.
There are several factors that can increase the likelihood of developing delirium. These risk factors include:
+66 2066 8888