What causes confusion? 80 possible conditions

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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.

Article Sources:

  • Constipation. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/constipation/DS00063
  • Crohn’s disease. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/crohns-disease/DS00104
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/inflammatory-bowel-disease/DS01195
  • Motility Disorders of the Large Intestine. (n.d.). About GI Motility. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from http://www.aboutgimotility.org/site/about-gi-motility/disorders-of-the-large-intestine/
  • Tenesmus. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003618/
  • Ulcerative colitis. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ulcerative-colitis/DS00598
Read More

See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar can be a dangerous condition. Hypoglycemia is rare in people who are not suffering from diabetes, the chronic disease that affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar...

Read more »

2

Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

Read more »

3

Psychosis

Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by thinking and emotions that are so impaired, that they indicate that the person experiencing them has lost contact with reality. People who are psychotic have fals...

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4

Seizures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Seizures are changes in the brain's electrical activity that cause violent shaking and loss of bodily control. Bruises can result from injuries sustained during a seizure.

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5

Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A head injury could be an injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. It can vary in severity depending on the cause. In some cases face swelling can be a sign of a head injury.

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6

Hypovolemic Shock

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Hypovolemic shock is a life-threatening condition that results when you lose more than 20 percent (one-fifth) of your body's blood or fluid supply. This severe fluid loss makes it impossible for the heart to pum...

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7

Orthostatic Hypotension

Orthostatic hypotension (also called postural hypotension) is a sudden fall in blood pressure that occurs upon standing quickly.

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8

Skull Fractures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A skull fracture is any break in the cranial bone, or the skull. It can result in bleeding, bruising, pain, and swelling. Less severe symptoms include headache, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision.

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9

Alcoholism

Alcoholism is also known as alcohol dependence. It occurs when you drink so much over time that your body becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol use becomes the most important thing i...

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10

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder. Learn about the causes, signs and research being done about AD.

Read more »

11

CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterized by intense fatigue that cannot be cured with sleep. Mental and physical activities may cause symptoms to worsen. When fatigue cannot be linked to ...

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12

Caffeine Overdose

You're at risk for caffeine overdose when you ingest more than 200 to 300 mg of caffeine (about three 8-oz cups of coffee) in a day. Dizziness, diarrhea, headache, and severe thirst may occur.

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13

Concussion

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Usually it occurs after an impact to your head or after a whiplash-type injury. A concussion can cause many severe symptoms that affect brain function.

Read more »

14

Drug Allergy Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A drug allergy is an allergic reaction to a medication. Your immune system identifies the drug as foreign and acts to eliminate it from your body.

Read more »

15

Cardiogenic Shock

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Cardiogenic shock is a rare condition in which the heart is so damaged that it is unable to supply sufficient blood to bodily organs. Sweating and cold extremities are potential signs of this condition.

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16

Sepsis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

One life-threatening complication of infection is sepsis, which often occurs in people who are elderly or have weak immune systems. Patches of discolored skin is a symptom of severe sepsis.

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17

Thyroid Storm

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Thyroid storm is a life-threatening condition that results from undertreated or untreated hyperthyroidism. Persistent sweating is one possible sign of thyroid storm.

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18

Opioids and related disorders

Opioids are a class of drugs that include both natural and synthetic substances. The natural opioids (referred to as opiates) include opium and morphine.

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19

The Deadly Potential of Digitalis: Digitalis Toxicity

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Digitalis toxicity happens when you take too much digitalis, a medication for heart conditions. This results in nausea, vomiting, chills and sweating.

Read more »

20

Heat Emergencies

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Heat emergencies are health crises caused by exposure to hot weather and sun. Heat emergencies have three stages: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. All three stages are serious.

Read more »

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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