CONFUSION SIGNS AND SYMPTOMSPathologically, confusion refers to a person’s loss of orientation in terms of location and even personal identity. In some instances, confusion will result in a person being unable to recall very recent events that occurred around him, or even render a person incapable of learning new material.
This lack of focus and confusion both affect a person’s judgment, and these conditions signal a lack or impairment of the normal functions of the brain. In its milder state, confusion is hard to diagnose without any data concerning a person’s usual “baseline” or their usual level of mental prowess. More severe degrees of confusion point toward a lack of orientation, making persons suffering from confusion unable to remember the present day, month or year, what location they are in, or even their own name.
Confusion is a condition that may either come upon a person slowly over time, or all of a sudden, depending on what causes it. In some instances, people suffering from confusion may behave in a very aggressive manner. There are also cases where confusion is a temporary symptom. Other times, it is permanent and incurable. Elderly individuals are more prone to confusion, particularly during a period of confinement in the hospital for illness.
CONFUSION RISK FACTORConfusion can stem from various factors. When a person is delirious, the sudden dysfunction in the workings of the brain can cause confusion. Other brain pathologies like dementia may also result in confusion and the loss of the ability to focus one’s attention.
There are certain health problems that lead to the state of dementia or delirium, and when these conditions occur at the same time, the sufferer is subject to a great deal of confusion. This is due to the fact that a person’s mental well being is dependent on their physical health.
CONFUSION CAUSESDementia and delirium may be caused by a host of various health problems. When these two occur at the same time, confusion is part and parcel of the symptoms of these kinds of mental dysfunctions. Confusion may likewise occur if a person happens to have some sort of structural defect of the brain, or a metabolic problem in the brain processes. Some instances of confusion come as a result of mental stress or emotional upheavals.
In terms of structural brain disorders, a trauma to the head such as a concussion, a penetrating injury, or even traumatic bleeding, can cause mental confusion. Neurological disorders are likewise succeeded by a confused state. Confusion also stems from various factors, such as lack of sleep; exposure of the body to extreme temperatures that may cause heat stroke or hypothermia; infections that affect the brain; allergic reactions; autoimmune diseases, and nutritional deficiencies.
Other causes of confusion that are related to toxicity include overuse of various substances such as alcohol, drugs or anesthetics; carbon monoxide poisoning or metabolic blockage poisoning, and various prescription medications, particularly those that are used for psychotropic treatment.
Mental illness may also cause confusion, among which include mania, schizophrenia and depression. Psychological stressors such as emotional shock stemming from grief, anger or fear are also some of the causes of confusion. People with low blood sugar, fluid or electrolyte imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, high fever, brain tumors, seizures, and sleep deprivation may experience episodes of confusion, as well.
CONFUSION DIAGNOSISConfusion itself is a symptom and may be one of the co-existing manifestations of an illness, disease, or disorder. Confusion can run the gamut from mild to moderate to severe, and a person experiencing disorganized or muddled thinking characterizes it. A person who is confused is prone to behaviors that can range from unusual to bizarre to aggressive. Another symptom of confusion is an immense difficulty attempting to solve problems or accomplish tasks that were previously easy to perform. People suffering from confusion will also find it hard to recognize members of their own family, and even familiar objects.
Other symptoms of confusion include drowsiness, disorientation, or hyperactive behavior. A confused person may also experience paranoia, delirium, and hallucinations.
A person will need emergency medical attention if confusion occurs suddenly, or is accompanied by headache or dizziness, faintness, a rapid heartbeat, very slow or very fast breathing, chills, fever, or clammy skin. If a person has previously been diagnosed with diabetes and appears confused, they will need to see a doctor immediately.
CONFUSION TREATMENTAny confusion that follows a trauma to the head, or immediately succeeding unconsciousness is a cause for serious concern. Even if the symptoms of confusion appear gradually over time, a person should consult a specialist for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
The medical practitioner will conduct a thorough physical examination and ask several questions related to the symptom of confusion. The patient will be asked if they frequently mix up day and night, if they experience insomnia, or have difficulty recognizing people they know. The doctor will also inquire if the patient is cognizant of their identity, location, date and time, and will evaluate whether the patient is able to answer all questions correctly.
The frequency of episodes when the patient is confused will also be determined, and whether the patient has experienced a recent illness, such as diabetes, chronic bronchitis, or a head injury, which may be the cause of the state of confusion. The doctor will also inquire about the patient’s history of drug and alcohol intake, as well as any other medications that the patient may be taking.
Other diagnostic tests that may determine the presence and cause of confusion may include neurological and cognitive tests to evaluate the functions of both the brain and nervous systems. The doctor may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the head, as well as an EEG, and blood and urine tests, depending on the severity of the symptoms of confusion.
There exists no specific treatment to cure confusion. Any treatment that is undertaken should address the main cause of the confusion, be it physiological or psychological.
CONFUSION PREVENTIONCaring for a person who suffers from confusion will entail the full time cooperation of the patient’s family, as well as a caregiver. The patient should be accompanied at all times to ensure their safety. In some cases, physical restraints may be necessary to prevent instances of aggressive behavior.
Surroundings will need to be kept quiet, peaceful and calm, in order to keep the confused patient in a relatively restful state.