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Delirium refers to a disturbed mental state that causes confusion and decreased awareness of a person’s environment. It often has a sudden onset, but usually resolves when the underlying cause is treated. Some examples of contributing factors include the following:
Also known of as “acute confusional state,” delirium can be a frightening condition for both the sufferer and those around them.
A doctor will diagnose delirium based on signs and symptoms of the condition. These signs and symptoms often develop over a short space of time, within a few hours or days. They may also come and go throughout the day, meaning there may be periods where there is no indication of delirium. Some of the main signs and symptoms of delirium are described below.
Some signs that a person is experiencing reduced awareness of their environment include:
Signs that a person’s thinking skills may have been affected include:
Someone may have developed behavioral changes if they:
Delirium and dementia can present with similar symptoms and any input from friends, family members or caregivers regarding any changes in a person’s thinking, behavior and abilities can be very helpful to a doctor in making an accurate diagnosis. Some ways in which a doctor can tell the difference between delirium and dementia are described below.
Some of the tests a doctor will use to identify symptoms of delirium are described below.
Once delirium has been diagnosed, it can only be treated once the cause is also diagnosed. If the cause is an infection, for example, antibiotics can be prescribed to resolve the problem. Once the cause has been identified, delirium often gets better quickly, within a couple of days or weeks.