Delirium is a mental illness where the sufferer loses awareness of their surroundings and is thrown into an euphoriac state and confusion. It’s an unavoidable condition and lasts for anything between a few hours and several days.

Patients with this disorder are afflicted with:

Pay attention,







Control of muscle,

Sleep and wakefulness.

Delirium can come in three distinct types:

hypoactive in which the patient appears sleepy or fatigued,

hyperactive, where the patient is anxious and unrestful,

Mixed, in which the patient changes between one type of treatment and the next.

The most frequently cited causes are

The presence of chronic and severe illnesses,

the intake of medication,


addiction to alcohol or drugs.

The signs of dementia and delirium are the same, and the observations and perceptions shared to the doctor by caregivers or family members are usually crucial and essential in determining a valid diagnosis.

The disorder is typically short-lived and is easily managed, unless it is seen in terminally ill patients during the final 24 to 48 hours of their lives before they enter multiorgan failure.

After the cause is identified and treatment starts, recovery is fairly quick, though the rate of improvement varies from one patient to the next. Recovery may take just a few hours, however, in elderly patients or those suffering from serious co-morbidities (dementia and head trauma), …) it can be a few weeks.

Afterward, the individual is likely to forget what happened or what happened, but in other situations memories of dreams or hallucinations may linger.

This is among the most common complications encountered in hospitals, especially for the elderly population, particularly but not just for patients who are in intensive care.

Photograph subject to retouching with the people in the underpass appear in 360-degree shadows

The Causes

Delirium is a condition that occurs when there are modifications or changes in the normal process of receiving and sending brain signals. The symptoms are likely to be due to a variety of causes that

The brain is vulnerable

can cause brain activity to make the brain activity.

The two main risk factors are portrayed by

advanced age (subjects older than 65 years),

pre-existing cognitive impairment (dementia),

however it isn’t clear whether they are separate from each but it is unclear if they are independent of each.

To increase the risk, we determine the following conditions:

restriction in the execution of daily tasks (for instance, the inability to walk independently),

issues with hearing or vision

malnutrition, dehydration or both,

severe, chronic or fatal illness.

Factors that can trigger delirium in patients who are predisposed are:

consumption of

medicines (sleeping pill, drugs, tranquilizers and antidepressants. medication for Parkinson’s disease Antispasmodics, anticonvulsants or antispasmodics allergy medicines, …),

Drugs of abuse


Alcohol withdrawal

toxic substances (carbon monoxide, for instance),

organ failure (liver, kidney, heart, …),

metabolic changes (major changes in electrolyte balance or blood sugar balance),

severe vitamin B12 deficiency,




Endocrine disorders (e.g. thyroid),




The onset of sudden and severe illness

extreme emotional stress

The final stage of a illness,

According to some studies prospectively conducted people who are who are hospitalized due to any reason appear to be at a higher risk of developing dementia however, these studies did not explicitly consider symptoms of delirium.

In the single prospective population-based study to detect delusions, people with a higher age were eight times more likely to experience the rate of onset of dementia, and also showed faster cognitive decline. Similar patterns are evident for those who have an earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

When should you contact your doctor?

If a friend, relative or caregiver observes signs that could be linked to delirium, it’s imperative to seek immediate medical treatment. If the patient suffers from dementia, it is important to be alert to sudden changes in his or her attention level and involvement. Your assessment of the symptoms that the patient is experiencing and your indicators of the patient’s cognitive capabilities and abilities will be crucial in determining the diagnosis.

The elderly who are in hospitals or in care homes for the elderly, are especially vulnerable to delirium. Since the severity of symptoms varies and certain symptoms like depression or a lack of response and agitation, tend to be “quiet,” delirium may be unnoticed.

If you see signs of delirium in a hospitalized person or a resident of a nursing home be sure to report the symptoms to the nursing staff or the nurses or a doctor instead of thinking that someone else might have discovered an issue.



The symptoms can last for a few hours, and even for months or weeks. If the triggers are eliminated, the recovery period is typically shorter.

The extent to which recovery is complete will depend on the patient’s mental and physical state prior to onset of condition: patients suffering from dementia, for instance can experience a general and substantial decline in memory and cognitive capabilities or experience a faster decline in capabilities. Healthier patients have a higher chance to have an entire recovery.

On the other hand people suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses might not be able recover cognitive capabilities or functional abilities to the same levels as they did prior to the delirium. People who are severely ill and suffer from delirium face an increased risk of

general decline in health status,

insufficient recovery following surgery

require hospitalization or hospitalization

an increased risk of death.


Since the signs of delirium manifest in alternating phases, it’s not always possible to establish the diagnosis in the first appointment; typically it begins by evaluating the degree of concentration and to engage in a conversation, and the ability to control mental state and the capacity to complete various tasks, which are less or more complex.

The neurologic examination (checking balance, vision, coordination and reflexes) can help in understanding the cause of delirium, whether it is stroke or any other neurological conditions that are part of the diagnostic spectrum, for example:




bipolar disorder


Important is to take having a complete medical history, checking for risks (diet or proper hydration, medications, drug and/or or alcohol use).

In certain instances the diagnostic tests and lab tests could be beneficial to confirm the existence of underlying conditions, like:

Tests for urine and blood,

chest x-rays,

cerebrospinal fluid analysis,


computed tomography

Magnetic resonance imaging

Any neurological test.

Therapy and care

The primary requirement to be fulfilled by the treatment for an episode of delirium concerns elimination of the underlying cause which triggered it. However, symptoms-based medications are frequently required to ease the patient and aid in its treatment within the hospital or family.

The majority of these therapies are designed to calm the patient, but also to ensure his security (it is not uncommon to find within a medical setting, a person suffering from delirium will try to tear off the IV needle as well as the breathing tube the catheter …).

Therapy for support

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of delirium typically manifest quickly lasting for brief period of time, ranging between a few hours and several days. The intensity of the symptoms fluctuates during the course of the day and usually getting worse during the evening.

The signs that could indicate delirium are

Rapid change in personality and behavior,

Problems with thinking and anxiety,

unusual depression.

If these symptoms are sudden they could be followed by:


incompatibility with family members

inability to focus on the situation.

The early signs can be misinterpreted to mean that they are related to dementia (for instance that of Alzheimer’s disease) However, there are significant differences between them:

People with delirium typically exhibit abrupt changes in their levels of awareness, while patients with dementia experience a more gradual decline, and remain conscious and alert until more advanced levels.

Cancer patients and older patients might have both of these disorders and it can be challenging for medical professionals to identify the cause. If the treatment for delirium is given in a way that is not beneficial then the diagnosis is likely to be dementia.

The patient could experience menstrual cycles in which he or she experiences no symptoms. Then, they suddenly they get worse, manifesting as the following:

Apathy and apathy for their surroundings

Inability to stay focused,

in awe,

focus on an idea, rather than the actual content of conversation or the questions asked,

the ease of being distracted by irrelevant issues or things.

Cognitive decline:

Memory loss, particularly with regard to recent events

Disorientation (inability to keep track of the place you are in and who you are or the time of day),

trouble with words or memory,

making up nonsensical phrases,

trouble understanding speech

difficulties in writing or reading.

In the end, what follows could be revealed


aggression or irritability,

Apathy that is total or in part, or a lack of reaction to stimuli from the environment,

sleep disturbances,

extreme emotions like anger, fear, anxiety or depression.


The development of delirium in hospitals can be a major hindrance in taking care of an older patient. A few studies suggest that the hospitalized patient with delirium has the risk of dying twice due to the same reason.


On the other hand it isn’t yet capable of defining with enough certainty the connection between dementia and delirium.


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