Confusion
Confusion is a symptom that makes you feel as if you cannot think clearly. You might feel disoriented and have a hard time focusing or making d...

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Confusion

Confusion is a symptom that makes you feel as if you cannot think clearly. You might feel disoriented and have a hard time focusing or making decisions. Confusion is also referred to as disorientation or delirium. If you or someone you care about is confused for a long period of time, dementia might be the reason. Dementia is a condition that is a result of loss of brain function. It also affects judgment and behavior as confusion does.

What Are the Signs of Confusion?

It is important to look for signs of confusion. Noticing the symptoms of confusion when they first appear will help you or your loved one get prompt treatment. Some signs of confusion are:

  • slurring words or having long pauses during speech
  • lack of awareness of location or time
  • forgetting what a task is while it is being performed
  • sudden changes in emotion, such as sudden agitation

If you are the one experiencing signs of confusion, it might be a good idea to call a friend or loved one for help. If you are confused, you might need help with things that you could do on your own before.

When to See a Doctor

If you or someone you know starts showing signs of confusion, call a doctor. People suffering from confusion can sometimes act aggressively, harming themselves or other people. Call a doctor if you notice:

  • dizziness
  • rapid heart beat
  • clammy skin
  • fever
  • headache
  • shivering
  • irregular breathing

Underlying Causes of Confusion

There are a number of factors that can cause confusion, from serious health problems to vitamin deficiencies. Alcohol intoxication is a common cause of confusion. Other causes include:

Concussion

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs as a result of head trauma. A concussion can alter the level of alertness as well as judgment, coordination, and speech. You might pass out if you have a concussion, but it is possible to have one and not know it.

Fluid Imbalance

Your body loses fluids everyday through sweating, urination, and other bodily functions. If you do not replace these fluids often enough, you could eventually become dehydrated. This can affect the amount of electrolytes, or minerals, your body contains, which can cause problems with your body’s ability to function.

Medications

Certain medications can cause confusion. Not taking medications as prescribed can also cause confusion. Confusion is commonly seen in cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, which uses chemicals to kill cancer cells, often affects healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Chemotherapy can cause damage to your nerves which can affect your brain’s functions and cause confusion.

Other Potential Causes

  • fever
  • infection
  • low blood sugar
  • not getting enough sleep
  • lack of oxygen
  • rapid drop in body temperature

What Can Be Done About Confusion?

Depending upon the cause for confusion, you or your loved one might find relief in treatment at home. In other cases, the underlying cause for the confusion might require medical attention.

At Home Treatment of Confusion

If the cause of your confusion is low blood sugar, drinking a sweetened beverage or eating a small piece of candy may be all you need to relieve your symptoms. If your confusion is caused by a fluid imbalance, drinking water or electrolyte drinks can help relieve your symptoms.

If your confusion is caused by a concussion, your doctor will decide when it is best to release you from treatment. He or she may want you to eat light foods and avoid alcohol. You may not need to stay in bed, but if you think you may fall asleep within the first 12 hours of having a concussion, have someone check on you every few hours.

Written by: Carmella Wint
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: George Krucik, MD
Published: Sep 28, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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