confusion

Confusion: Causes, Treatment, and When to Seek Help

Confusion refers to the state that makes you feel unfocused or unclear. Your thoughts become unaligned and you feel disoriented. Due to not thinking clearly, you find it difficult to make the right decisions. The condition is also referred to as disorientation. When people suffer from an extreme state of disorientation, it is known as delirium. If someone you care about feels disoriented for a long time, then you need to take them to a doctor. It can indicate they suffer from dementia. It is a progressive condition, mostly occurring in elderly patients. When a person suffers from dementia, their brain function declines. So, it results in the inability to perform even simple daily functions. The condition can affect memory, judgment, and behavior.

Confusion

Disorientation can come on suddenly or slowly over a period. The severity and other signs depend on the actual cause. At times, the condition lasts only for a short time and goes away. While in some cases like dementia, the condition is permanent and is not possible to cure it. In some people, the condition can trigger unusual or strange behavior. So, you must never underestimate disorientation as you have to uncover the actual cause triggering the condition. It is also essential to know when to seek medical assistance to prevent any lasting complications.

About Confusion

Confusion refers to the change in the mental status, which causes the affected person unable to think without their usual level of clarity. In the majority of the cases, disorientation can lead to the loss of the ability of the person to recognize places, people or tell the exact date and time. Disorientation affects a person’s decision-making ability. So, affected people tend to make wrong decisions. The condition can arise suddenly or develop in a person slowly over a period of time. You can develop a problem due to several reasons. From injuries, use of medication, medical conditions to substance abuse, lack of clarity can occur due to any issue.

About Confusion

Lack of clarity mostly affects the elderly due to environmental changes. Some react aggressively when they are admitted to hospital or disorientation occurring as a result of sundowning (late at day, afternoon, evening or at night). It usually occurs in people suffering from dementia. In most cases, elderly people suffer from behavioral changes along with a lack of clarity.

Symptoms Of Confusion

It is important to detect confusion as early as possible for getting the help your or your loved ones need. So, consult your doctor when you see some of the symptoms suggested below:

  • Long pause or slurring of words when talking
  • Incoherent or abnormal speech
  • Lack of awareness of time and location
  • Forgetting the task while in the middle of performing it
  • Sudden changes in moods and behaviors (like getting agitated suddenly)

When you see such symptoms, it is better to seek professional guidance. Disorientation can occur due to controllable causes or may indicate the early onset of dementia. If you are the one experiencing the problem, then it is better to call a friend or someone you trust for assistance. You need the help to complete the tasks that prior to experiencing disorientation, you could complete on your own.

See A Doctor For Confusion

You need to contact the doctor once a person starts showing signs of lack of clarity. As it occurs due to any of the health conditions, use of medication or injury, you need to uncover the actual cause for accessing necessary help. It aids in better treatment. If your loved one with advancing age has the condition, you need to indicate when the problem started as they cannot answer the healthcare professional about it. It is important to describe the characteristics and duration of the condition to the doctor for proper diagnosis. In some cases, people experiencing the condition can behave unpredictably or aggressively. So, getting necessary help will avoid any harm to themselves or others. Close observation is necessary in such cases.

Remember, lack of clarity in extreme cases or the one that reaches the point of delirium needs admitting in the hospital. So, pay close attention. If you feel confused followed by a head injury, it is essential to seek immediate medical assistance. It is because you could have possibly sustained a concussion, which needs medical attention. You must also contact your doctor when you see other signs along with disorientation like:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Clammy skin
  • Shivering
  • Headache
  • Weakness on one side of your body
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slurred speech

Underlying Causes Of Confusion

Several factors can cause confusion. From serious health problems to simple vitamin deficiencies, the reasons for the condition are many. Here are the most common causes associated with the problem:

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol has a significant impact on the complex structure of your brain. It has the potential to block the chemical signal happening between the neurons (your brain cells). So, it leads to the most common problem of intoxication. You can see the following symptoms associated with excess alcohol consumption:

  • Lack of clarity
  • Slurred speech
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Poor Memory

People who consume excess alcohol for several years can face severe health problems. One among them is hepatic encephalopathy. It is the alcohol-related liver disease that triggers specific psychiatric symptoms. Patients suffering from hepatic encephalopathy can exhibit symptoms like vision problems, mood changes, hallucinations, ataxia, and disorientation.

Epilepsy

The condition caused due to abnormal activity in the brain triggers seizures in the affected person. The condition disturbs the processes your brain coordinates. It can lead to temporary confusion.

Uncontrolled Sugar (Diabetic Emergency)

When you fail to diagnose or get proper treatment for high sugar levels, it can lead to delirium. It is the reason to trigger an acute state of disorientation as well as behavior change. It is difficult to treat the condition. As a result, patients face the risk of long-term cognitive impairment. It also leads to death in some cases.

Overdose/ Oxygen Deficiency

While our body needs oxygen to work properly, the decrease or increase in oxygen levels can cause disruption in the body function. So, people who receive molecular oxygen at increased partial pressure during treatment can cause issues like disorientation.

Uremia

It is the problem caused due to accumulation of toxins in your body. When your kidney fails, it becomes impossible to remove the toxic waste. Due to the inability to remove waste products, the toxins start accumulating in the body, which affects the brain. So, disorientation and restlessness occur due to kidney failure.

Trauma/Concussion

Trauma/Concussion

When you suffer from trauma, head injury or shock, you can suffer from disorientation. A person who is involved in an accident or suffering from head injury needs to get checked for a concussion. A concussion can cause a change in the alertness level, coordination, judgment, and speech. People who have suffered a concussion can pass out without anyone knowing it. Some may not feel disorientated due to concussion until a few days after the injury.

Infection

Individuals suffering from infections can cause decreased alertness and lack of clarity. It is specifically true for people developing urinary tract infection, sepsis or respiratory infection.

Psychosis

Psychosis

Psychosis refers to the condition affecting the brain’s ability to process information. Because of the condition, a person loses touch with reality. So, people suffering from the problem feel like they are hearing, seeing or believing things that are not real.

Stroke

Stroke

When a person suffers from a stroke, they can experience a lack of clarity, difficulty speaking properly, understanding speech or trouble thinking. It is a sudden problem that can occur when you are working or performing any activity.

Dehydration

It is the condition occurring due to the loss of body fluids. While you lose fluids every day when you sweat, urinate or due to other body functions. Replacing lost fluids is essential to avoid dehydration. Loss of excess fluids can cause electrolyte imbalance in the body. Due to the disruption in electrolyte amounts in the body, you can face issues as it affects the ability of your body to function properly.

Medications

Taking certain medicines can cause a lack of clarity. You can also experience a state of disorientation when you fail to take medication as per the doctor’s guidelines. The condition also occurs when people stop taking any medications and experience withdrawal as a result of it. Disorientation is a common complication associated with cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, they kill healthy cells too. The strong dose of medication can damage your nerves. It affects the brain’s function and results in confusion. Elder patients who take opioid medication can cause delusion. The medication is used for palliative care and helps people manage pain.

Dementia

Dementia is the progressive disease causing delirium in older people. The disease can affect the brain cells and results in its deterioration. Due to the loss of brain cells, an affected person feels agitated, fatigued, confused, and restless.

Other Potential Causes Of Confusion

Apart from the above-mentioned causes, several other factors can trigger disorientation. The potential causes include:

  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • The sudden drop in the body temperature
  • Stroke
  • Illegal drug use

Diagnosing Confusion

If you suspect a loved one is showing symptoms of confusion or have any of the underlying conditions triggering the problem, then see a doctor immediately. To detect the condition, your doctor can use the following techniques.

Question The Patient

It is the basic test used to determine if the person suffers from a lack of clarity. Your doctor can ask questions that will help them detect if the affected person’s brain can recognize themselves, place and time. So, the patient needs to convey their name, place, time of day or month, and the last event they remember. Depending on the answer offered by the patient, the doctor can determine the extent of disorientation. In the best-case scenario, the affected person can answer appropriately all the questions. If the patients are disoriented, then the doctor tries to determine the extent with the answers provided. Based on the assessment, the doctor suggests other tests.

Other Tests For Detecting Causes Of Confusion

For getting proper treatment to reverse or manage the condition, your doctor needs further tests. The doctor can only devise a proper treatment plan based on the exact health condition causing the problem. You need to undergo sophisticated tests to uncover the actual problem. To detect the exact reasons for the health problems triggering confusion, your doctor orders the following tests.

  • Mental status tests
  • CT scan of the patient’s head
  • Blood tests
  • EEG (Electroencephalogram)
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Urine tests

What tests you need to undergo depends on the findings of the doctor after assessing the symptoms of the patient. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor suggests the ideal treatment plan.

Treatment For Confusion

The treatment for the condition depends on the underlying causes of disorientation. So, after getting the proper diagnosis, you have the following treatment options.

Treatment For Short-Term Mild Confusion

The short-term causes of mild disorientation are easy to manage with some simple home remedies. Based on the cause, you can follow the suggestions.

Remedies For Nutritional Imbalances

To ensure your body gets the necessary nutrition, you need to make changes to your diet. Getting more nutrition can help you overcome issues like lack of clarity or focus. So, include the following:

  • Add more soluble fiber to your diet.
  • Eat food rich in fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium.
  • Include whole grains, lean, and plant-based protein.
  • Get adequate Vitamin D.
  • Boost your antioxidant intake.
  • Eat calcium-rich foods.

Manage Sleep Deprivation

The amount of sleep needed depends on the person. But, most adults require at least seven hours of sleep at night. Sleep deprivation can affect your quality of life and make you lose focus. You can follow the home remedies suggested below:

  • Mindful meditation
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Massage

These methods can relieve the stress from your body and make you relaxed. It will help you have a good night’s sleep. If the home remedies fail to work, then consult your doctor to get prescription medication or other treatment options.

Rehydrate To Avoid Confusion

If the loss of fluids from your body is causing the issue, then you need to rehydrate. In simple steps, you can overcome dehydration. Drink enough fluids or electrolyte drinks to help relieve the symptoms.

Treatment For High-Risk Cases Of Confusion

In high-risk cases, you need medical attention to deal with the problem. The disorientation caused due to such issues needs medical intervention. Else, it can lead to severe complications.

Control High Blood Sugar

Uncontrolled blood sugar can often result in delirium. So, it is better to see a doctor get the medication or insulin needed to regulate your sugar levels. Follow the instruction suggested by your doctor regarding taking the medication. Also, make some lifestyle changes like exercising, keeping your weight under control, eat healthy foods, and controlling your stress levels. Monitor your sugar levels to ensure it does not go high or down. In some cases, confusion is caused due to low sugar levels. In such cases, eating a small piece of candy or drinking sweetened beverages can relieve the symptoms.

Get Treatment For Head Injury

If you have suffered a head injury due to a fall or accident, then get immediate medical help. Some people can exhibit symptoms of disorientation due to concussion. So, get advice from the doctor to decide on the right time to release you from the hospital. The healthcare professional also offers you advice on structuring your lifestyle to treat a concussion. Here are some tips to get back on your feet faster:

  •  Eat light food when you have suffered a concussion
  • Avoid alcohol for some time after you sustain a head injury
  • Get someone to check on you every few hours

You need to stay awake for the first 12 hours after your head injury. Doctors want the patient to stay awake to detect any signs of seizure or weakness on one side of the body. So, asking someone to check on you every few hours can help detect any unusual signs early.

Treating Alcohol-Related Confusion

Quitting alcohol suddenly can only cause more issues. So, you need proper medical treatment to manage your health condition and take steps to prevent complications. With proper medical help, it is possible to handle alcohol-induced health problem and you can reverse some of them.

Adjust Medication Dose

In some cases, a lack of clarity occurs due to a high dose of medication. So, try to follow the dose suggested by the doctor. If the dose makes you uncomfortable, then inform your doctor and readjust the dose to avoid the problem.

Treat Other Health Issues

For disorientation caused due to infection, stroke, poisoning or other conditions, getting medical treatment can only help manage the condition. With medical care, it is impossible to overcome the disease.

Steps To Take When Someone Experiences Permanent Confusion

If you see your loved one confused, then you need to seek medical help as early as possible. When you have someone in the family suffering from a lack of clarity, then try the steps suggested below:

Keep Track Of Medical History

It is important to keep track of their medical history to take necessary action. You need to have the list of all medication your loved one takes every day. You need to know their hospital history, daily habits, and other symptoms. Keeping track of it will help you get them the necessary medical help as soon as you see the signs. Consult a doctor and offer all information for reaching the right diagnosis.

Make Surroundings Familiar

People who are confused react aggressively to the change in surroundings. Therefore, you need to make the surroundings familiar to your loved ones. It avoids disorientation caused due to even small changes in the surroundings. You need to place objects that your loved ones feel emotionally attached to. These objects can remind them of who they are and help orient them.

Stay Close

People who are emotionally close to affected people need to offer them comfort and reassurance. Permanent confusion is an emotionally draining condition. So, your closeness and familiarity with the person will make the doctor’s assessment easier to detect normal behavior. It helps detect any abnormal behavior and take necessary action.

Emergency Medical Assistance

When confused people become aggressive, they have the tendency to hurt themselves or others. So, it is better to seek immediate medical help to calm them down and avoid physical harm.

Preventing Confusion

People suffering from short-term disorientation due to a bad lifestyle can overcome the problem by taking the steps suggested below:

Avoid Excess Alcohol Consumption

Excess alcohol consumption can cause several issues in your body. It can also change the way our brain works. You can get addicted to alcohol. When you try to stop drinking alcohol altogether, it can cause withdrawal symptoms, including a confused state of mind. So, try to limit your alcohol consumption.

Avoid Recreational Drugs

Using illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, or other illegal recreational drugs can affect your brain functions. So, you can face many side-effects, including disorientation. Therefore, avoid recreational drugs.

Eat Healthy Diet

Including a healthy and balanced diet can help you get all the necessary nutrients. So, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits to prevent mineral or vitamin deficiencies.

Control High Sugar Levels

A diabetic person needs to keep an eye on their blood sugar levels by measuring it daily. It is to prevent a condition like hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

Get Rest

Try to relax and get at least eight hours of sleep every day. It will help your body overcome exhaustion or fatigue.

Take Medication As Prescribed

Your doctor prescribes the medication with the right dose needed for managing your condition. You must strictly follow the dose and the guidelines provided by the doctor. Never take fewer or more doses of prescription medication.

Conclusion

Confusion is a frightening condition. In some cases, it is reversible. With proper medical care at the right time, you can reverse the problem. But, you need to see a doctor as early as possible for alleviating the condition. If your loved one shows the signs of disorientation, then never hesitate to call the doctor. With medical assistance, you can uncover the cause of the condition. You must always stay close to the person showing signs of disorientation. With proper tracking of signs, your doctor can take the necessary steps to treat the problem.

View Article Sources
  • https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003205.htm
  • https://www.medicinenet.com/confusion/symptoms.htm
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/confusion

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