What causes disorientation? 16 possible conditions

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What Is Disorientation?

Disorientation is a type of altered mental status. Orientation is knowledge of one’s:

  • personal identity
  • location
  • date
  • time
  • present situation

Alternative Names

Disoriented, disturbance of orientation, orientation confused, orientation poor, disorientated.

Synopsis

Disorientation is the lack of being able to correctly identify yourself, your location, or the date and time. It’s a sign of an altered mental status. A change in mental status often indicates a serious medical problem that requires immediate medical attention. It may also be a sign of intoxication. The patient is typically unable to give reliable information. Others must be ready to provide important information about the patient’s history, habits, and social situation.

Associated Diagnoses

Similar diagnoses include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • epilepsy
  • alcohol related disorders
  • head injury
  • hemorrhagic shock
  • hyperparathyroidism
  • concussion
  • dementia
  • delirium
  • Eencephalitis
  • West Nile Virus
  • narcotic overdose
  • hypoxia
  • hyperglycemia
  • uremia
  • hyperammonemia
  • sedative overdose
  • anti-convulsant overdose
  • psychotropic drug overdose
  • thyrotoxicosis
  • Addison’s disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • heat stroke
  • hypothermia
  • acidosis
  • alkalosis
  • meningitis
  • encephalopathy
  • subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH)
  • tumors
  • cerebral aneurysm
  • stroke
  • transient ischemic attack
  • basilar migraine
  • traumatic brain injury

Diagnosis and Treatment

Disorientation requires immediate medical attention to determine the diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Call 911

Call 911 if you are unable to arouse a person who is disoriented, or if the person is also agitated and you have concerns that the person might harm themselves or others.

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

1

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.

Read more »

2

Dementia Overview

Dementia may affect memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Mental impairment must affect at least two brain functions to be considered dementia.

Read more »

3

Partial Seizures

A surge in neuron activity causes seizure, resulting in a host of physical symptoms such as muscle contractions, visual disturbances, and blackouts. Partial (focal) seizures affect just one area of the brain.

Read more »

4

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 »

5

Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness, or insomnia, is a serious sleep disorder. It can mean the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night, or the tendency to wake too early before having gotten enough sleep.

Read more »

6

Meningitis

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

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. It may cause headache and fever in teens and adults, irritability in babies, and trouble breathing in young children.

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7

Encephalopathy

Encephalopathy is a general term describing a disease that affects the function or structure of your brain. There are many types of encephalopathy and brain disease. Some types are permanent and some are temporary. Som...

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8

Acute Mountain Sickness

Hikers, skiers and adventurers who travel to high altitudes can sometimes develop acute mountain sickness, also referred to as altitude sickness or high altitude pulmonary edema. It typically occurs at about 8,000 fee...

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9

Encephalitis

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

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue usually caused by viral infection. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, and vomiting. Seizure, unconsciousness, and high fever are severe signs.

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10

Chronic Respiratory Failure

When you breathe, you take in oxygen-rich air. This oxygen moves through the bloodstream and into the organs and tissues of your body. The respiratory (breathing) system also removes carbon dioxide from your blood. Whe...

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11

Pyelonephritis

Pyelonephritis is a sudden and severe kidney infection. This condition causes the kidneys to swell, can permanently damage the kidneys, and can even be life threatening. It is important to recognize the symptoms so yo...

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12

Dissection of the Aorta

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

The aorta is a large artery that carries blood out of your heart. If you experience a dissection of the aorta, it means that blood has entered the wall of the artery, between the inner and middle layers. This can happe...

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13

Sleepwalking

Also known as somnambulism, sleepwalking is a condition where a person walks or moves around as if he or she is awake while asleep. Sleepwalkers may perform a variety of activities while asleep, including gettin...

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14

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Mad Cow Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is an infectious disease that causes the brain to degenerate. The hallmark of this brain disease is an inability to think clearly and take care of oneself. Over time, the disease cause...

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15

Whipple's Disease

Whipple's disease is caused by Tropheryma whipplei bacteria. It's a relatively rare disease that affects the digestive system and can spread to the heart, lungs, brain, joints, and eyes. The condition can be lif...

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16

Delirium

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

Delirium is an abrupt change in the brain that causes mental confusion and emotional disruption. It makes it difficult to think, remember, sleep, pay attention, and more. You might experience the condition durin...

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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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