Confusion is a
symptom that makes you feel as if you can’t think clearly. You might feel
disoriented and have a hard time focusing or making decisions. Confusion is
also referred to as disorientation. In its extreme state, it’s referred to as
If you or someone
you care about is confused for a long period of time, dementia might be the
reason. Dementia is a condition caused by brain function decline that results
in the loss of your ability to perform everyday functions. It also affects
judgment and behavior.
What Are the 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
- abnormal or incoherent speech
- lack of awareness of location or
- forgetting what a task is while
it is being performed
- sudden changes in emotion, such
as sudden agitation
If you’re 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
When to See a Doctor
If you or someone you know starts showing
signs of confusion, call a doctor. Confusion can have many causes, including
injury, infection, substance use, and medications. It’s important to find out
what the underlying cause of the confusion is so that it can be treated.
Your doctor will ask you or your loved one to
indicate when the confusion started and when you last exhibited “normal”
thinking and behavior. Being able to describe the characteristics and duration
of the confusion will help your doctor diagnose its cause.
People suffering from confusion can sometimes
act aggressively or unpredictably. A person experiencing confusion should be
closely observed and protected from harming themselves or others. If their
confusion is extreme or reaching the point of delirium, your doctor may
recommend admitting them to a hospital.
If confusion follows a head injury or trauma,
it could be a possible concussion and you should call 9-1-1 or go to an
emergency room right away. It’s especially important to call a doctor if you
notice confusion alongside the following symptoms:
- rapid heart beat
- clammy skin
- irregular breathing
What Are the 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:
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs as
a result of head trauma. A concussion can change someone’s level of alertness
as well as their judgment, coordination, and speech. You might pass out if you
have a concussion, but it’s also possible to have one and not know it. You may
not start to feel confusion due to a concussion until a few days after the
Your body loses fluids everyday through sweating,
urination, and other bodily functions. If you don’t replace these fluids often
enough, you could eventually become dehydrated. This can affect the amount of
electrolytes (minerals) your body contains, which can cause problems with your
body’s ability to function.
Certain medications can cause confusion. Not
taking medications as prescribed can also cause confusion, as can withdrawal
from a medication that you recently stopped taking.
Confusion is the most common sign of medical
complications related to 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
Other Potential Causes
Confusion can be
caused by a number of different factors. Other potential causes include:
- low blood sugar
- not getting enough sleep
- lack of oxygen
- rapid drop in body temperature
What Can Be Done About Confusion?
For short-term cases of mild confusion caused
by nutritional imbalances, dehydration, or sleep deprivation, you or your loved
one might find relief in treatment at home.
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 dehydration,
drinking water or electrolyte drinks can help relieve your symptoms.
However, confusion due to a head injury
requires immediate medical attention. If your confusion is caused by a
concussion, your doctor will decide when it’s best to release you from
treatment. They will give you advice on how to structure your lifestyle around
treating your concussion, such as eating light foods and avoiding alcohol for some
time. You may not need to stay in bed, but you should have someone check on you
every few hours if you think you may fall asleep within the first 12 hours of
having a concussion.
Because there are many serious conditions
that can cause confusion, medical attention is often required. Do not hesitate
to call a doctor if a loved one suddenly displays signs of confusion.
It can be
frightening when a loved one is experiencing confusion. Until a doctor
determines the cause of the confusion, the most important thing you can do is
stay with the person and observe how they are acting. Your description of their
behavior will be an important tool in determining what’s causing their
confusion so they can be treated.