Delirium is a condition that features rapidly changing mental states. It causes confusion and changes in behavior. Besides falling in and out of consciousness, there may be problems with

  • Attention and awareness
  • Thinking and memory
  • Emotion
  • Muscle control
  • Sleeping and waking

Causes of delirium include medications, poisoning, serious illnesses or infections, and severe pain. It can also be part of some mental illnesses or dementia.

Delirium and dementia have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to tell them apart. They can also occur together. Delirium starts suddenly and can cause hallucinations. The symptoms may get better or worse, and can last for hours or weeks. On the other hand, dementia develops slowly and does not cause hallucinations. The symptoms are stable, and may last for months or years.

Delirium tremens is a serious type of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It usually happens to people who stop drinking after years of alcohol abuse.

People with delirium often, though not always, make a full recovery after their underlying illness is treated.

Symptoms of Delirium

The following features are indicative of Delirium:
  • changes in alertness
  • changes in feeling and perception
  • changes in the level of consciousness or awareness
  • changes in movement
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • drowsiness
  • confusion about place or time
  • decrease in short-term memory and recall
  • disorganized thinking
  • emotional or personality changes
  • incontinence
  • problem concentrating

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Common Causes of Delirium

The following are the most common causes of Delirium:
  • drug toxicity
  • alcohol withdrawal
  • metabolic imbalancement
  • chronic illness
  • fever
  • exposure to a toxins
  • malnutrition
  • dehydration
  • severe emotional distress
  • pain

Other Causes of Delirium

The following are the less common causes of Delirium:
  • ingestion of poisons

Risk Factors for Delirium

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Delirium:
  • hospital stay such as in intensive care or after surgery
  • brain disorders
  • older age
  • previous delirium episodes
  • visual or hearing impairment
  • having multiple medical problems

Prevention of Delirium

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Delirium. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • promote good sleep habits
  • helps the person to remain calm and well oriented

Occurrence of Delirium

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Delirium cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Delirium can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Delirium can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Delirium

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Delirium:
  • Mental status assessment: To assess mental state, memory, perception and confusion
  • Physical and neurological exams: To detect signs and symptoms of health problems and neurological diseases

Doctor for Diagnosis of Delirium

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Delirium:
  • Psychiatrist

Complications of Delirium if untreated

Yes, Delirium causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Delirium is left untreated:
  • loss of ability to function
  • loss of ability to interact
  • progression to coma or stupor

Procedures for Treatment of Delirium

The following procedures are used to treat Delirium:
  • Supportive care: Helps in preventing complications of delirium
  • Cataract surgery: Beneficial for patients with delirium

Self-care for Delirium

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Delirium:
  • Develop good sleep habits: Helps in recovering from delirium
  • Promote calmness and orientation: Improve the person's health

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Delirium

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Delirium:
  • Acupuncture therapy: Lowers the incidence rate of delirium
  • Consume traditional herbal medicine (Kampo medicine): Decreases the incidence rate of delirium in patients with cardiovascular (CV) disease

Patient Support for Treatment of Delirium

The following actions may help Delirium patients:
  • Join support group for caregivers: Provides helpful information about the disease

Time for Treatment of Delirium

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Delirium to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 4 weeks

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Delirium.

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