- Changes in perception and sensation
Difficulties with ability to:
- Sustain and shift attention
- Think and reason rationally
- Function normally
- Communicate clearly
- Serious medical condition such as a brain tumor, cancer, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, seizures, and low or high blood sugar levels
- Serious infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections
- Toxic effects of medications
- Injury such as severe head injury, broken bone, and severe pain
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Withdrawal from alcohol or drug abuse
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- Terminal illness, especially just before death
- Serious illness such as AIDS
- Increased age
- Severe sleep deprivation
- Severe burn
- Central nervous system problems such as stroke , seizures , tumors and dementia
- Visual or hearing impairment
- Severe constipation
- Memory impairment
- Deficiency in certain vitamins
- Inability to pay attention
- Memory problems
- Language disturbances
Disorientation, especially about:
- Time of day
- Where one is
- Who one is
- Misinterpretations—for example, thinking a doctor who is trying to help you is trying to hurt you
- Illusions—for example, thinking someone is someone else
- Hallucinations—seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
- Emotional disturbances—for example, suddenly becoming angry, fearful, or withdrawn for no apparent reason
- Present injury or illness
- Use of medications or illicit drugs
- Time when mental state changed
- How and how fast the mental state changed
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Spinal tap
- Kidney and liver function tests
- Thyroid function tests
- High potency antipsychotic medications
- Benzodiazepines—used to treat delirium caused by alcohol withdrawal
- Cholinergic medications—used to treat delirium caused by anticholinergic medications, which are used to treat stomach cramps and spasms in the intestines and bladder, among other conditions
- Vitamins—given if the delirium is caused by low levels of vitamins
- Feel safer and more comfortable
- Improve the ability to function
- Calm down and feel less anxious
Environmental and Supportive Intervention
- Placing a clock and calendar in your room.
- Darkening the room at night and providing natural light during the day time hours.
- Maintaining a quiet, noise-free room.
- Reminding you often of the day and time, where you are, and why you are there.
- Placing familiar objects around you such as family photographs or objects from home.
- Using memory orientation aids
- Listening to relaxation tapes
- Doing light exercise—when possible and if advised by your doctor
- Using vision and hearing aids when necessary
- Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
American Psychiatric Association http://www.psych.org
National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov
Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org
Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca
Delirium. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 15, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2014.
Gleason O. Delirium. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Mar 1;67(5):1027. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0301/p1027.html. Accessed September 17, 2014.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014 -
- Update Date: 09/17/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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